Ryan Giggs has claimed that Romelu Lukaku needs to prove to his critics that he can perform in big games against Manchester City this weekend.
The Belgian, having scored just once in 11 games, netted an equaliser against CSKA Moscow to take his tally for this season to 13 goals.
But he has continued to struggle against the top five, receiving criticism for performances against Liverpool and Chelsea.
And Giggs, speaking ahead of the Manchester derby, noted that the Belgian will be judged by how he performs in games like the one coming up on Sunday.
“Centre forwards go through droughts,” he said. “I think when you are Man Utd centre forward the scrutiny that you are under multiplies and that was always going to be the case.”
“I said at the start of the season I think Lukaku will be judged on the big games because he will score goals. There is no doubt about that. He will score 20-odd goals for United but the big games is where it will define him as being a great Manchester United centre forward.
“I think he is really important in this game because when he holds the ball up, like he did a couple of times against Arsenal, and you have got Martial joining in and Jesse joining in, we’re a different team. When it keeps coming back, like Liverpool, like Chelsea, and he wasn’t holding it up and it’s just wave after a wave of attack.
“He’s a really important player I think. And once he gets that hold-up play the rest will come because he is a goalscorer. I was at the game on Tuesday night in the Champions League and he didn’t do a lot but his strength and finish for the goal was really good.
“That will give him a massive lift because if he had gone into that game not scoring then the pressure would have been even more so. Centre forwards once they score they usually keep scoring so hopefully that’s the case.”
Supporters shouldn’t have their knives out for Lukaku at this moment in time because, as Jose Mourinho has continually noted, the quality of his performances shouldn’t be based upon goals alone.
He has, over time, refined his understanding of the attacking machinations of this side, holding up the ball smartly and linking up with teammates well, with his direct style allowing for the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial to shine.
But he will know, deep down, that in the eyes of supporters this is just not enough. At this level he is expected to deliver in the box, and there won’t be a better time to silence the noise than against Pep Guardiola’s men.