No rest for Romelu as minutes mount up
Man United v Crystal Palace
Romelu Lukaku will have to cope with Manchester United’s relentless fixture schedule as Jose Mourinho cannot afford to rest him until Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns.
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 (Dh443m).
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 again today.
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 knee injury.
“Look, in here without Zlatan we cannot rotate the striker, especially because Marcus Rashford is playing in other positions,” Mourinho said.
“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.”
While irked by the ongoing
scheduling issues impacting teams in continental action, Mourinho did not want to be seen as moaning as it “doesn’t give me solutions”. Instead, he spoke about the importance of mental preparation for games such as today against struggling Crystal Palace.
“Your colleague was basically saying that we have good results because we are playing against bad teams, so how can we be excited with what we are doing if we are doing that just because we are playing against bad teams?” he asked, having been annoyed by an earlier suggestion that United have had a kind schedule to date. “I don’t think Everton, West Ham, Leicester will be happy with that, but, okay, we have our feet on the ground.
“We are humble, we know that the great teams of the Premier League we didn’t play them yet, so we are calm, we follow our work.”
Cole customer: Lukaku can match a club record if he scores today.