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Romelu Lukaku isolated again as Manchester United fail to break down Crystal Palace
Lukaku has just four Premier League goals this season
Last Updated: 25/11/18 6:20pm
On the fringes and without a goal once again, Romelu Lukaku's struggles continued against Crystal Palace. What's the solution for Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho?
It's lonely up top for Manchester United.
Romelu Lukaku cut an isolated figure in their disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Crystal Palace and getting the best from the Belgian striker is becoming a frustrating problem for boss Jose Mourinho.
After being dropped for four Premier League games before the international break, Lukaku was reinstated against struggling Palace - but still his goal drought goes on.
It's now been 11 matches since he scored for United and he's been stuck on four goals since opening the scoring at Watford on September 15.
Lukaku had one effort correctly ruled out for offside and a header well saved on Saturday but he spent the majority of the game on the fringes, barely involved.
In total, he managed just 20 touches of the ball in 90 minutes.
To put that into context, the next fewest touches recorded by a Manchester United outfield starter who played the whole game was 51, by Anthony Martial.
Even substitute Marcus Rashford, who only played for 30 minutes, had more touches than Lukaku.
Lukaku was the only United player not to regain possession for his team even once, losing it nine times. He made just 13 passes, completing just eight of them. He attempted three crosses - but none of them found a red shirt. They're alarming numbers.
Lukaku's best moment of the game came with just four minutes on the clock, when he knocked down a Paul Pogba long ball into the path of Jesse Lingard, who fired off a blocked shot.
It was a moment which hinted the returning Lukaku was ready to deliver an impact. It never materialised.
For Mourinho it is becoming a real issue. He has become so concerned by Lukaku's struggles that he travelled to Belgium during the international break and spoke to the striker's national team boss Roberto Martinez about what's going wrong. The search for a solution goes on.
The manager bemoaned his team's failure to take their big chances against Crystal Palace and United are in desperate need of a cutting edge.
For the fourth time this season they failed to score at Old Trafford and, while Lukaku isn't the only one who deserves to take the blame, the £75m striker - who played every minute in those matches - must bear the burden.
In response, he may, somewhat justifiably, point to the service he's been receiving. It's been badly lacking in quantity and quality.
Fewest touches by Bix Six lead strikers in 90 min appearances
|Lukaku||Man Utd||20||C. Palace|
|Lukaku||Man Utd||28||West Ham|
Among 90-minute appearances by the Big Six's lead strikers this season in the Premier League, Lukaku accounts for four of the six performances with the fewest touches.
His isolation is a recurring problem and United's creators behind him must do better.
Against Palace, over half of the United players who made it onto the field failed to find Lukaku with a pass, including key attackers Lingard, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez and Marouane Fellaini.
"He's playing up front on his own and he doesn't get a lot of service," Paul Merson told Soccer Saturday after the match. "He probably went to Manchester United thinking 'I'll get bundles of goals here, I'll get six, seven, eight, nine chances a game'.
"But he's working off [service] like he's playing for a bottom-half team. If he's got two chances in a game he's done well - that's not right."
With United miles behind the title race, losing touch in the battle for the top four and facing crunch Champions League group games, the problem of Lukaku is something Mourinho and the 25-year-old must find a way to fix fast.
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