(Reuters) - Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has hailed striker Romelu Lukaku for his “phenomenal attitude” ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash against rivals Liverpool.
Lukaku, who has stepped up in 2018 with eight goals and three assists over 11 appearances in all competitions, remains a key figure upfront for United, and told earlier this week he feels like Mourinho’s “sergeant” on the pitch.
Mourinho said the Belgian striker gives more than just goals on the pitch and sets an example for others with his willingness to put the team first.
“He is an important guy for me. He is one of the guys that I trust. I love the attitude and the character,” Mourinho said.
“Against Crystal Palace, after our third goal, I told him (to play as a) central defender in a back five with (Chris) Smalling and (Victor) Lindelof because I could not make any more changes.
“When I say to a striker, ‘Go there and do that job for me’, then he is a sergeant. His attitude is phenomenal. That is why I told you many times that, for me, it is not just about the goals he scores, it is about what he brings to the team.”
Mourinho confirmed defender Eric Bailly is fully fit after making two appearances from the bench since returning to the squad, while midfielder Marouane Fellaini returns for the first time since January after undergoing knee surgery.
“He was fully fit for a couple of weeks. He is okay,” Mourinho added. “The only one that is back to the team is Fellaini.”
United could tighten their grip on the second spot in the league with a win over third-placed Liverpool, who are two points behind heading into the weekend.
While Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp said the blockbuster Old Trafford clash is the biggest game he can imagine, Mourinho reckons it is just another fixture between two historically big teams in England.
“I still don’t know because in my mentality every match is the same and I’m not very good on that culture of this rivalry is special, that match is special,” Mourinho said.
“For me, is just a big match (between) two historical clubs, not just in England but the world, and in this moment important points for top four, important points for second (spot).”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar