A summer target for former club Chelsea, United moved quickly to sign the 24-year-old striker in a deal that is already proving smart business — and even good value despite the fact Everton’s coffers could eventually be boosted by £90 million (€102 million).
Lukaku made it 10 goals in his first nine United games with a brace in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory at CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and, despite only landing in the early hours of Thursday morning, is set to start againthis afternoon.
The in-form Belgium striker can match Andrew Cole’s club record of seven goals in his first seven Premier League matches against embattled Crystal Palace, before attention turns to international matters with Belgium.
Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils have already qualified for the World Cup so it might be a chance to take things easy on Lukaku, whose role for Mourinho’s Red Devils will be far more important until Ibrahimovic returns from his long-term knee injury.
“Look, in here without Zlatan we cannot rotate the striker, especially because Marcus Rashford is playing also in other positions,” Mourinho said, with Lukaku having so far only missed the Carabao Cup win against Burton.
“So until the moment we have Zlatan, we cannot think about giving rest to our number nine the same way we give in other positions. We cannot do that.”
Mourinho has bracketed Paul Pogba’s injury as “long-term” — comparing it to those Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo are recovering from.
The United manager is still unwilling to put a timescale on the injury, but 17 days on from the France international’s setback, the Portuguese has revealed it is a long-term issue. “He’s injured, he cannot play tomorrow and it’s not an injury that I can have the hope like I have with (Antonio) Valencia or (Phil) Jones,” Mourinho said of Pogba.
“I have the hope to see them in training and to have a positive answer, so long-term injuries I don’t speak about them. So Ibra and Pogba and Rojo, these players I don’t think about them.”
It also emerged yesterday that Mourinho has been summoned to appear in a Madrid court on November 3 — two days before he takes his United side to his old team Chelsea in the Premier League.
The Spanish authorities opened a case against the 54-year-old in June for alleged tax evasion during his time as Real Madrid boss. It is claimed he did not declare revenue related to his image rights in 2011 and 2012 and owes the Spanish state more than €3m. Mourinho’s agent issued a statement at the time denying the allegation.
Meanwhile Roy Hodgson has admitted “unknown quantity” rookie Freddie Ladapo could be the solution to Crystal Palace’s striker crisis at United.
Palace are the only team left in Europe’s big five leagues still to claim any points, and today they could equal Portsmouth’s Premier League record of seven straight losses from the start of 2009/10.
Manager Hodgson believes the Eagles have been struck by a “plague of injuries”, confirming his sole front-line striker Christian Benteke will be sidelined for six weeks with knee trouble.
“In the current situation where we find ourselves, where we really don’t have the cover or the back-up for Christian Benteke, the fact Freddie’s training every day and he’s a centre forward puts him very much in the frame.”