Mourinho defends decision to stop Romelu Lukaku taking penalty
Manager questionably denied striker chance to end a six game goalless streak for the club
Manchester United’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku reacts after missing a chance against Benfica at Old Trafford. Photograph: Getty Images
Mile Svilar saved an early Anthony Martial penalty but scored an own goal and later let in a Daley Blind spot-kick as Benfica fell to a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford, leaving United on the brink of the Champions League knock-out phase after a dull encounter.
There was confusion in the build-up to Blind wrapping up victory, with Mourinho stopping Lukaku from taking the spot-kick — denying him the chance to end a goalless streak for the club that stretches back to September 30th.
The United boss has felt that run has led some fans to get on the back of a player he believes everyone should see as “untouchable” — not that his lofty status stopped him from giving the penalty to Blind and making a chatting gesture after it.
“I don’t understand why everyone asks me the same,” Mourinho said.
“I am paid to take decisions, good or bad. In the first half the decision was bad because the player that I chose (Martial) to take the penalty missed.
“In the second half I made another decision and I don’t see the drama because there is no drama on it.
“The penalty taker for this match was Martial. He took in the first half and missed. He was not even on the pitch when the second one was (given) and then I have to make a decision.
“Romelu wants to take, he has the personality to take the responsibility.(Ander) Herrera was the same, but my decision based on what we did in training in the past couple of days was Blind.
“The players respected my decision and that was it. End of story.”
Mourinho claimed not to remember his chatting hand gesture after the goal, but it would be easy to perceive it as another jibe at the doubters.
The United boss used his programme notes to get in a dig at the supporters he felt did not fully back his side in Saturday’s win against Tottenham, while his post-match interview with BT Sport saw him take aim at “specialists”.
“We didn’t qualify yet? Not yet,” he said, having apparently not heard that CSKA Moscow had won in Basel to delay United’s inevitable progress.
“Four victories and it’s not enough, so we must get that point. Two matches, we must get that one.
“You know, it’s better for the specialists to comment on the game than for me to give my opinion.
“I am paid to work and to do my best, which I do everyday, and the specialists they are paid to comment on my work so let them comment.
“I’m more than happy. We changed a lot of players, we broke the natural dynamic of the team and the routines of the team.
“We played a kid from the academy (Scott McTominay), we scored two, didn’t concede. Three more points, (up to) 12, more money for the club because every victory means money.
“No significant injuries, just something in Jesse (Lingard)’s back but nothing important. I’m more than happy.”