All-time Premier League top scorer Alan Shearer believes Romelu Lukaku is struggling to live up to his £75 million price tag following his poor performance in Manchester United's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.
Shearer said on Match of the Day 2 (h/t MailOnline's Tom Farmery):
"He's not doing enough in games—and I hate saying it—to justify his fee.
"He looks to be lacking in confidence, two in 13 now, but in his defence with some of the balls and some of the service he was feeding on scraps. Everything seems a second or two too slow and by the time he's made his mind up it's gone."
The Belgian arrived at United in the summer and enjoyed an electric start to his Red Devils career, as he bagged 11 goals in his first 10 games, but he has scored just twice in a 13-match spell stretching back to September.
Lukaku had the chance to grab a late equaliser against City at Old Trafford but failed to beat Ederson from close range.
On the chance, Shearer added: "From a centre-forward's point of view, that's what makes the difference between the very good strikers and the good strikers. You get one chance like that, and it has to be in the back of the net."
Football writer Liam Canning is in agreement with the Newcastle United legend:
Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning
Romelu Lukaku had his chances today and messed all of them up. Not what you expect from a £75m striker. José Mourinho needs to drop him now. Not good enough.2017-12-10 18:35:01
Meanwhile, the Guardian's Barney Ronay alluded to Lukaku's struggles in front of goal when discussing reports of a bust-up between United and City in the tunnel after the match:
Barney Ronay @barneyronay
Main thing about claims of Lukaku hitting Arteta with a bottle is, of course, the fact he was aiming for Pep at the time2017-12-11 10:27:05
It was a day to forget at both ends for the striker, who could have prevented both of City's goals, having failed to clear a corner for David Silva's opener and then a free-kick for Nicolas Otamendi's winner.
The performance will have done little to help his reputation as a flat-track bully who is effective against smaller teams, per MOTD's Twitter feed:
Match of the Day @BBCMOTD
Romelu Lukaku has scored just five goals in his last 40 Premier League appearances against the ‘big six' #MOTD2 #MUFC https://t.co/AkFCAK1JZU2017-12-10 22:44:51
Shearer's assessment of Lukaku appears to be accurate—he seems devoid of the confidence he so readily displayed earlier in the campaign, and that can make a significant difference when it comes to finishing chances.
Likewise, those chances have not been so easy to come by in recent months, as United have been without Paul Pogba, who was out with a hamstring injury between September and mid-November and then missed the City match after he picked up a red card against Arsenal on Dec. 2.
It is no coincidence the 24-year-old's only goals since September have come with the Frenchman on the pitch, and Pogba did his team-mate no favours in getting himself suspended.
The goals will return to Lukaku's game—he's proved himself to be a prolific goalscorer during his career—but United need that to happen sooner rather than later, as they are now 11 points behind Premier League leaders City.
Pogba's return from his ban will help, but manager Jose Mourinho must also do what he can to instil confidence in his striker.