MAN UTD 2-BENFICA 0
FROM a distance it all looks fine and dandy.
Beyond that, though, The Untouchable LUKAKU barely got a kick in this game as his poor form persisted but no reason for panic Strikers are all known to go through spells of drought
United’s win, a fourth successive victory in the Champions League group phase, masks some serious issues up front.
Even when he claimed the ball to take United’s 77th minute spot kick, Jose Mourinho signalled from the bench for Daley Blind to take it.
Blind, who has been promoted to penalty-taking duties, notched it home emphatically.
Lukaku’s goals, the nine in 10 stats that people were cooing about a few weeks ago, have dried up.
The big No9, the man Mourinho hung his hat on for goals when he paid Everton £75million for him in the summer, has stopped scoring.
It is six games since the ball last rippled the net, when he scored the final goal in the 4-0 destruction of Crystal Palace, way back on September 30.
It was another moment of outrageous misfortune for Benfica keeper Mile Svilar when Nemanja Matic’s left-footer rebounded off the base of his left hand post and ended up in the back of the net off his back
Mourinho will be troubled by Lukaku’s form, especially ahead of Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, remember, were the team out-manoeuvred by Mourinho when he snatched the striker from Goodison Park in the summer.
The Special One has a few days to work out a battle-plan.
He will be satisfied with this, an OK performance on a night when Benfica came hunting for a surprise win.
At times United were dazzled by the trickery of Pizzi, Ljubomir Fejsa and Andreas Samaris in the centre of Benfica’s midfield.
Pizza, in particular, was the pick of them.
His first half strike, fading away from David de Gea, forced Manchester United’s keeper to fling himself to left to tip it away.
It was a top class save.
He is at the top now, in a position that Svilar is dreaming about as he makes his way in the game.
The poor fella was to blame when Marcus Rashford scored 64 minutes into United’s 1-0 victory in Portugal a couple of weeks back.
Here he looked to have atoned for the error, the hero when he saved Anthony Martial’s first half penalty.
He had Benfica’s noisy supporters bouncing up and down in a corer of the old Scoreboard End when he made the right call and dived to his right.
It was one of those satisfying moments, a good start to the day for one of the game’s brightest prospects.
Martial, scorer of the winner against Tottenham on Saturday after coming on as a controversial second half substitute, was far too casual about it.
His strike was nonchalant, far too careless after Douglas foolishly handballed inside the area after he collided with Martial.
Svilar came to Benfica’s rescue.
He saved well again from Lukaku when the big man wriggled his way into a shooting position midway through the first half.
This time, Benfica’s keeper turned his effort around his left hand post.
So far so good for Svilar.
That was until the final minute of the half, when Matic lined up his strike from the edge of the area.
It was a decent enough strike off his left boot, but it cruelly rebounded off the base of the post and into the net via Svilar’s back.
The Benfica keeper had some sympathy, the forlorn looks about the place after a touch of good fortune. He did not deserve that.
Neither did United, not really.
They were ponderous and sluggish, doing just enough to get by without the crowd getting on Mourinho’s case again.
There were a few chants for United’s combustible coach in the first half, a half-hearted attempt to show some support for him.
After Saturday’s outburst, it seems to be on the wane.
The idea that Mourinho has got United playing the way they should is fanciful in the extreme.
With the exception of Huddersfield away they are playing winning football.
Lukaku had chances to add to the scoreline, but his effort on the stroke of half-time was saved by Svilar.
He had been put clean through, but his confidence drained with every blade of grass the closer he got to goal.
so its on to the shaky Chelsea at the weekend. Promises to be intresting.