- Manchester United face a Champions League test against Benfica on Teusday
- Romelu Lukaku was amongst the stars checking in at the Lowry on Monday night
- Jose Mourinho said the striker was ‘untouchable’ in the pre-match press briefing
Jose Mourinho gathered his Manchester United squad for a pre-match stopover at the Lowry Hotel ahead of their clash with Benfica on Tuesday.
The United stars, including the under-fire Romelu Lukaku – whose five-game scoring drought Mourinho was forced to defend in the build-up to the Champions League clash – were pictured arriving at the club’s favoured hotel on the eve of their meeting with the Portuguese outfit.
The likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford also delightED fans waiting outside the city centre hotel by waving for their cameras.
Star striker Romelu Lukaku was also pictured arriving at the Lowry ahead of Tuesday’s game
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho makes his way into the Lowry Hotel on Monday
Eric Bailly, who returned to the United side on Saturday, checks in at the city centre hotel
Ander Herrera smiles for a selfie as the United players get together before playing Benfica
United fans straddle the barrier to get a picture of Marcus Rashford as he arrives at the hotel
United No 1 goalkeeper David de Gea packed lightly for his overnight stay at the Lowry
Nemanja Matic was is no mood to hang around as he made his way from the car to the entrance
The Old Trafford fans let their feelings be known regarding Lukaku’s performance against Tottenham on Saturday when Mourinho replaced Rashford with Anthony Martial, booing to indicate they thought the Belgian should have been withdrawn.
Mourinho admitted that the fans have a right to express themselves, but insisted that he also has an obligation to protect his players – particularly when they are as important to the team as Lukaku.
Speaking ahead of the Benfica game at Old Trafford, Mourinho said: ‘The fans are the fans and I also told that the fans pay for their tickets and are free to express themselves the way they want to express. But my job is when I feel they deserve it to protect my players.
‘I think Romelu is one of the players that should be untouchable in terms of the respect of everyone. It’s not one goal or the ball goes against the post or a save by the opposition keeper that can make Romelu’s contribution below the top level.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan hauls his luggage up the stairs outside the Manchester city centre hotel
Juan Mata stopped to talk to United supporters and autograph hunters outside the hotel
‘He is playing extremely well for us, and yes I have to protect my players when I feel they deserve it.
‘And Romelu always deserves it because what he does for the team is fantastic. Playing football for a striker isn’t just about scoring goals.
‘So, for me, untouchable in my team and I think he should be untouchable in the support from the fans.
‘But the fans are the fans, they pay the ticket and do what they want. As a manager I feel a duty to protect my players when I feel they deserve it.’
Jesse Lingard bounds up the steps outside the hotel ahead of the squad’s overnight stay
Another familiar face, Victor Lindelof, greets staff waiting outside the Lowry on Monday night