Romelu Lukaku has been assured by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he will get chances at Manchester United despite being overtaken by Marcus Rashford in the competition for a starting place.
Lukaku has not started a Premier League match since Solskjaer took over as caretaker manager on December 19, although he has scored three goals in four appearances in all competitions in that time.
The Belgian scored in his only start under Solskjaer against Reading in the FA Cup and off the bench against Bournemouth and Newcastle in the Premier League.
Rashford’s pace appears to be better suited to the quick style of play that Solskjaer prefers, as evidenced by the English international’s winner in a 1-0 victory at Tottenham last weekend, but the Norwegian has made clear that he will need all six of his senior forward players as they attempt to progress in three competitions.
Solskjaer has tended to prefer Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard alongside Rashford as his front three, with Alexis Sanchez’s involvement restricted by injury, although Juan Mata has also started two of Solskjaer’s five league matches.
Signed from Everton for £75 million in July 2017, Lukaku is United’s second most expensive ever player and the caretaker manager insists he remains a crucial part of his squad.
“He’s a big part of the squad, definitely, with his personality around the place. There’s no one scoring as many goals as him in training.
“There are the three who play the most but then you’ve got Rom, you’ve got Juan, you’ve got Alexis, so I’ve got a front six I can rotate with and Rom is definitely going to be playing games.”
Solskjaer referred to his own time as a player at Old Trafford, when he built a reputation for scoring goals as a substitute.
In the United side who won the treble in 1999, Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham were the two back-up strikers, behind first choices Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, yet scored the goals that won the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, completing a season that also brought them the Premier League and FA Cup.
– ‘Take chances’ –
“I used to be one of four strikers when we played with two. Now we have six forwards and we play with three most of the time.
“We’ll be OK to be able to rotate and there’s enough games and playing time. It’s about taking the chances when you get them, and to be fair, Rom has scored three already and Marcus has scored three. It’s up to the strikers to take them.”
Solskjaer has restored United’s confidence with six straight victories since taking caretaker charge and has an enticing run of Premier League fixtures against Brighton on Saturday, Burnley and Leicester to look forward to, but is interested to see how his players react in adversity.
“That’s a different kind of test for me and the players,” Solskjaer said.
“How do we react? How do the players react when we go 1-0 down? How do I react when we go 1-0 down?
“I’ve been 1-0 down a few times in my career as a manager but I haven’t had the quality of players like I have now.
“I have to say that I’m looking forward to seeing them go one goal down and turning it around because they’ve done it so many times this year.
“It’s about the reactions you have on the pitch. Yes, we will lose a game. Yes, we will have to react to it and get up the next morning. I’ve seen enough to know they have the character to turn it round, and I know I do have that character.”