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Lukaku: “You can’t judge me as the finished article”

Manchester United v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester United and SL Benfica at Old Trafford on October 31, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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From the outside, there isn’t much to criticize about Romelu Lukaku’s first season at Manchester United.

Lukaku, 24, has seven goals in 10 Premier League matches this season, adding three in the Champions League and a UEFA SuperCup goal for 11 total for United.

Only Leroy Sane (six goals and five assists) has been directly involved in more goals than Lukaku (7+3), and Harry Kane is the only player with more league goals.

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He had the same amount of league goals through 10 matches for Everton last season, when United talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasted four. The previous season, United’s leading league scorer scored 11 goals total (Anthony Martial) and 2014-15 saw Wayne Rooney (12) and Robin van Persie (10) barely eclipse that figure as a team leader in PL play.

So while expectations are a bit higher this season, the second for Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford, it’s surprising for many outside the United orbit to see the manager compelled to publicly support Lukaku.

That’s what happened earlier this week, and now the player himself has been quizzed on the matter by Thierry Henry. Here’s what Lukaku said:

“I’m 24. You can’t judge me as the finished article. I’d rather have a year where I improve, improve, improve rather than going straight to the top and then declining.

“I know I have a lot of talent. I can do a lot of stuff, score goals with my left, right and head. But I want to be a creator - I want to have more assists. I want to make sure when my team is having difficulties they can count on me.”

The knock on Lukaku is his relative struggles against top teams, which happens because, well, top teams are generally better at defending than others. While the Belgian was kept off the scoreboard against Liverpool, he assisted Martial’s winner versus Spurs and scored against Real Madrid in the Super Cup.

His hefty price tag plus position as striker on one of the world’s most monitored teams will keep the focus on his play, and rightly so (especially against big teams). Yet from the outside, do any other neutrals -- or enemies -- find it all a bit odd?

Follow @NicholasMendola