MUMBAI (Reuters) - Romelu Lukaku has the ability to rip apart defences but the Belgian marksman may need a year under his belt at Manchester United to be more consistent, the Premier League club’s former striker Louis Saha has told Reuters.
The 24-year-old joined United for 75 million pounds ($105.24 million) on a five-year contract last July after scoring 25 league goals in 37 matches in the last campaign for Everton.
His prolific form garnered interest from several leading sides in Europe, including former club Chelsea, where he previously worked under United manager Jose Mourinho.
Lukaku made a stellar start to life at the Manchester club, scoring 11 times in his first 10 games but the goals have since dried up for the Belgian international.
“He started well, we can see that he has got more in him,” Saha, who scored 42 goals during his four-and-half year spell at United, said in an interview. “We want to see him rip apart some defenders because he can do it.
“Physically he’s so strong. I will say that he can do more but that’s easy to say. Sometimes Lukaku might not be helped with Mourinho’s style of play.
“I wish next season maybe, with one year under his belt, he’ll be even more consistent.”
Mourinho let Lukaku go at Chelsea but the Portuguese has continued to back his striker since their reunion, saying the Belgian offers more on the pitch than just goals.
But with the arrival of Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal this week, United have more attacking options and a further lack of goals could relegate Lukaku to the bench.
Saha, who has also played in the Premier League for Everton, Fulham, Sunderland and Tottenham, hoped Sanchez could emulate Dutchman Robin van Persie, who left Arsenal for a successful spell at the Manchester club in 2012.
Van Persie ended up as United’s highest scorer in his debut campaign at Old Trafford and helped guide the club to their 20th league title.
“His speed, he has no fear. It’s impossible to mark those kind of players. He can play right, left, in the middle, play behind defenders... it’s unplayable,” Saha said of Sanchez.
“When these players get players around them as well with desire to win titles... he can do amazing things at United.
“If you remember Van Persie, who also came from Arsenal and destroyed the Premier League by himself in the first season. He killed it, we hope Sanchez will do the same.”
The 39-year-old Saha was speaking in Mumbai as part of Gulf Oil’s fan-building campaign for United’s supporters, who were invited to a live screening of the Premier League away fixture at Burnley on Saturday.
United have struggled to compete for the title since the departure of long-term manager Alex Ferguson in 2013, but Saha feels they are a much-improved side under Mourinho.
“They are consistent and look like a team who want to attack more than it used to,” Saha said, with United now 12 points behind leader Manchester City after 24 league matches. “Fans are happy, confidence is growing and the fear factor is back.
“We need to get closer to City, they have been very consistent. I think it’s a good season, we will talk about it more in May.”
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Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O'Brien