'I still don't believe that he's playing to his strengths': Andy Cole says Romelu Lukaku must play his natural game to score more Manchester United goals
- Andy Cole says Romelu Lukaku did 'brilliantly' to score 27 goals this season
- He could scored even more goals if Jose Mourinho played him to his strengths
- Lukaku must exploit his strength and power with Manchester United next season
By Chris Wheeler for MailOnline
Published: 19:44 EDT, 17 May 2018 | Updated: 19:44 EDT, 17 May 2018
Romelu Lukaku will score even more goals for Manchester United if he starts playing to his strengths, says former Old Trafford favourite Andy Cole.
The Belgium international has hit the net 27 times in his first season at United and is expected to feature in the FA Cup final at Wembley this weekend after missing the last three games with an ankle injury.
But Cole believes Lukaku could be even more prolific if he used his pace and power to run at teams rather than having the ball passed to his feet too often in a team that doesn't create as many chances as United sides of the past.
Romelu Lukaku could improve his goals return at Manchester United if he plays to his strengths
LUKAKU IN 2017-18
Shots on target: 66
'He's had a massive season, fair play to him,' said Cole. 'I think he's played really well. He's been consistent, he's not had the opportunity to have much rest, with Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) being injured and then moving on, so this season he's done really well in a team that doesn't create many chances. To get 27 goals, whether from a half-chance or a full chance, is brilliant.
'I still don't believe when I watch him play that he's actually playing to his strengths. If you look at the way he played at Everton, to the way he plays now, it's totally different.
'If he starts playing to his strengths, and taking advantage of what he has as an athlete - his strength and power - and starts running in behind and stretching teams, you'll get even more out of him.
'If you look at the modern game now, all the forwards want the ball to their feet. There could be 20 yards of space in behind, but no-one runs in behind.
'I look at Lukaku and I think to myself, "does anyone really want to chase him?". I really don't think so.
'If you look at what Mo Salah has done this season, a lot goes through him, even though the three of them (Salah, Mane, Firmino) are fantastic. If you look at the way he plays, he plays to his strengths.
The Belgian striker scored 27 goals in his first season under Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford
But he may be able to score even more if he starts exploiting his power and strength more
'They give the ball to him early doors and he'll crack on and do what he does and nick a goal. He's ended up getting 43 goals this season.' Cole believes Lukaku has grown into his role at United following a £75m summer move from Everton, and answered the critics who point to his lack of finesse.
'I think he will have realised, early doors, there are no weekends off playing for Man United,' added Cole. 'At Everton or West Brom, when he was there, you could have a couple of weekends off.
'He got a little bit of flak when he went through a bit of a barren spell, but now I think he genuinely does appreciate that when you play for Man United, you have to be involved every game if you want to succeed, and people will dig you out for the slightest things if not.
'I don't think it's pressure, I think it's enjoyment, because you know you're playing for the biggest club in the world and people are going to ask questions of you.
'At Man United, you're expected to win, regardless of what position you're in. A lot of people might will be looking at Man United even more now they're not winning the Premier League, and questioning whether player X, Y or Z is good enough.
Andy Cole, pictured against Chelsea in 1995-96, knows all about scoring in the Premier League
'For a lot of the players it's about proving they're more than good enough to go on and win things.
'I think people are starting to appreciate him even more. I know people question him about this or that, his first touch lets him down or whatever.
'But I've watched him closely this season and I think fair play to him, because he's had a really good season in a team that is still trying to gel, still trying to find the right pattern of play and system, so I think he's done really well.'
Cole also expressed sympathy with Anthony Martial who has struggled this season after falling out of favour under Jose Mourinho. The young Frenchman started less than half of United's Premier League games, and has been left out of France's squad for the World Cup.
'It's been a strange position with Martial because you look at him and everyone knows he is a talented kid,' added Cole.
'I am not going to question his attitude because I don't know him well enough, but he definitely has the talent.
Cole also expressed sympathy for Anthony Martial after a difficult season at Old Trafford
'Knowing the game, it's very hard when the manager doesn't pick you and you play in the one game and you are judged on the one game. If everyone got judged on one game you would be putting a different team out every week.
'I don't think he has had a run in the team whereby he can justify being in the team every week because his runs have been very short, just like Marcus (Rashford). He's not had a run.
'If you are only going to have one-and-a-half games, you are going to be scratching your head and say "it's going to take me a little longer than that".
'You look around the team and you could play for or five games in a row and then all of a sudden the form is in. You need that kind of run, especially if you are a centre-forward or a left or right-sided attacking player. Everything is based on confidence.
'We're all human. We all question ourselves. So to run into form after one-and-a-half or two games, it's not an easy position to be in.'
Andy Cole was speaking on behalf of Marathonbet, the Official Global Betting Partner to Manchester United.