Romelu Lukaku could bag 40 goals a season if Manchester United played to his strengths, according to former Reds striker Andy Cole.
Lukaku , who is set to return for United in Saturday’s FA Cup final against former club Chelsea, has scored 27 goals in his debut season following his £75million switch from Everton.
But former United striker Cole is convinced the Belgium international could get the same kind of goal return as Liverpool’s Mo Salah – who has 43 this season – if Jose Mourinho’s side played to his full strengths.
“Lukaku’s had a massive season,” said Cole. “He’s been consistent and he’s not had the opportunity to have much rest, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being injured and then moving on.
“So this season he’s done really well to get 27 goals, in a team that doesn’t create many chances. But I still don’t believe, when I watch him play, that he’s actually playing to his strengths.
“If you look at the way he played at Everton, to the way he plays now, it’s totally different.
“If he starts playing to his strengths, and taking advantage of what he has as an athlete – his strength and power – and starts running in behind and stretches teams, you’ll get even more out of him.
“If you look at what Salah has done at Liverpool this season, a lot goes through him.
“They play to his strengths. Give the ball to him early doors and he’ll crack on and do what he does and nick a goal. He’s ended up getting 43 goals this season.”
Cole, who scored 121 goals in 275 appearances for United, believes too many forwards in the modern game want the ball played to their feet, rather than being knocked in behind defences from them to run on to — which he believes would suit Lukaku with his pace and strength in being able to go past opponents.
“In the modern game now, all the forwards want the ball to their feet,” said Cole.
“If you look at the game closely, there could be 20 yards of space in behind, but no-one runs in behind.
“But I look at Lukaku and I think to myself, ‘Does anyone really want to chase him?’ I really don’t think so. So if he thinks to himself, ‘There’s 20 yards of space in behind, I could give some a yard or two and still beat them to it’
“Once he starts doing that and they start doing that… phew!”
Despite Cole feeling Lukaku has not unlocked his full potential this season, he claimed he has proved his worth after finally understanding the unique demands and the pressure that comes with playing at Old Trafford.
“I think he realised, early doors, there are no weekends off playing for United,” said Cole.
“At Everton and West Brom, where he was before, you could have had a weekend off or a couple of weekends off. But when you play for United, there are no weekends off, and I think he appreciated that early on.”
* Andy Cole was speaking on behalf of Marathonbet, the Official Global Betting Partner to Manchester United www.marathonbet.co.uk
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