Romelu Lukaku has impressed for Manchester United, says Andrew Cole, and is deserving of a place in the Premier League’s 100-goal club.
The Belgium international is just one effort short of becoming the 28th English top-flight centurion.
A 14-goal return for United, as part of a 23-goal haul across all competitions, has edged Lukaku ever closer to that notable landmark.
He has called for greater respect for his efforts, following a big-money move and little rest time, and Cole believes the 24-year-old should be hailed for his contribution to the Red Devils cause.
A former striker who tasted Treble glory with United in 1999 said in the Mirror on the man currently leading the line at Old Trafford: “I think what he’s appreciated now, being at Manchester United, is that it’s not possible for him to take a weekend off — because every game is intense.
“Maybe at Everton he could have taken a weekend off and still nicked a goal but at United everyone wants to beat you and I think he’s realised the level of intensity that’s required.
“The magnifying glass is always on the centre-forward at United and I think it’s fallen on him massively this season.
“He’s not had too much rest, he’s played virtually every match and not had much time to recover, because of the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But he’s done really well. He came with a big price-tag, but he’s done well.
“It’s not been an easy first season. There’s been a lot of pressure on him with Zlatan injured and Marcus Rashford in and out, so he’s been the only recognised centre-forward.
“But you can’t take anything away from what he’s done since he arrived. He’s scored goals, which is his job.
“Being one goal away, if he gets it at the weekend or he doesn’t, he’s going to get there at some stage because he’s been good enough to score 100 goals in the Premier League.”
Lukaku could reach a century of strikes in a crunch clash with Liverpool, with Cole prepared to admit that he needs to offer more in big games following long-standing accusations of a being a flat-track bully.
“He got one against Chelsea but that question is still going to be thrown at him... that he’s not scored enough against the big teams," added the former England international.
“When you play against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and City, those games are naturally tighter because they’re the better teams and your chances are maybe more limited. If you get a half-chance, you have to take it.
“He’s going to take a lot of flak at United because that’s the nature of being at such a big club
“He said he doesn’t feel he’s given enough credit but he’s got to take it on the chin because that’s what happens. You just have to get your head down.”