Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku has brushed off criticism over his poor record against the top sides.
Since arriving in the Premier League the Belgium international has scored 15 goals in 57 matches against the so-called ‘Big Six’ – of which he is now a part.
It is a poor return considering the form he has shown over the last two years for Everton and now United and was highlighted again after he missed his solitary opportunity in the goalless draw at Anfield, shooting too close to international team-mate Simon Mignolet.
It was a chance the 24-year-old would normally have converted after plundering 16 goals in 13 appearances for club and country and unsurprisingly led to more questions about his big-game performances.
“I don’t think too much about it. I just move on,” said the striker, against whom accusations of him not scoring important goals only gain more traction when statistics show 13 of his last 24 Premier League goals have been scored after the 79th minute.
“I know expectations are really high but that is something I relish. When I was at Everton we have a different mindset going into games. Sometimes it was difficult against some teams when you play not to win and you don’t really create chances.
“Now I am in a team who want to win against big teams so I think the situation will change.
“I don’t put pressure on myself. The biggest pressure for me came in the European Super Cup against Real Madrid (in August) as that was the game when everyone was looking at me thinking, ‘Will he do it?’
“That game (in which he scored in a 2-1 defeat) freed me from everything. People will say this and that but I am in a situation where the team is performing really well even though there is a lot of work to do.
“The biggest strength is knowing you are going to score and knowing you are going to miss. A lot of strikers miss bigger chances than me but with me it is always, ‘Rom did this, Rom did that’. That is the standard I’ve set myself. It is something that happens in football and I am relaxed about it.”
Lukaku’s lack of chances against Liverpool was mainly due to the defensive way manager Jose Mourinho set the side up, securing a second successive goalless draw at Anfield with that gameplan.
Despite beginning the weekend only behind Manchester City on goal difference despite being far more free-scoring this season Mourinho was in no mood to take the game to their arch-rivals.
It is an approach which drew criticism from many quarters but defender Phil Jones was unrepentant as the Portuguese’s success is built on not losing the big games and capitalising on fixtures against teams outside the top six.
“Let them (criticise) – we’ll see where we are at the end of the season,” was the defender’s defiant response. “We’ll see where we are at Christmas. We’ve done well but it is far too early. There is a long way to go.”
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