Lukaku on his way to be­ing strik­ing great

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By STUART MATHIESON stuart.mathieson@men-news.co.uk @StuMathiesonMEN

FIVE years ago Robin van Per­sie was re-set­ting the bench­mark for United strik­ers.

It means the tar­get for Romelu Lukaku to­mor­row against his old club Ever­ton is a hat-trick to be­come the new stan­dard.

In the Pre­mier League era United’s im­ports in at­tack have in­vari­ably hit the ground run­ning.

Old Traf­ford used to be called the grave­yard for strik­ers once upon a time, but nearly all of the in­com­ing names in the last two decades and more have avoided be­ing buried in the early matches by the crit­ics.

Back in 1995 An­drew Cole was a club record £7m buy from New­cas­tle. The sen­sa­tional switch be­tween ri­vals of the pop­u­lar hit­man on Ty­ne­side meant he was un­der se­vere scru­tiny.

He eased that with a match­win­ning goal in his third start against As­ton Villa in a 1-0 win.

Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer was a snip in 1996, sign­ing from Molde for £1.5m. But the fu­ture Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal hero marked his de­but with a goal as a sub but also four goals in his first five starts. An in­stant favourite.

Another 1999 head­line maker – Teddy Sher­ing­ham – on the other hand wasn’t an im­me­di­ate favourite as he made a slow im­pact scor­ing only once in his open­ing five games.

Dwight Yorke came in and was ac­claimed from the scor­ing three times.

Those who grabbed four goals in their first five starts were Ruud van Nis­tel­rooy, Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha.

Van Nis­tel­rooy and Rooney, in par­tic­u­lar, ben­e­fited from a head­line-mak­ing start. Van Nis­tel­rooy scored twice in a 3-2 home win against Ful­ham in 2001 and, of course, Rooney bagged his phe­nom­e­nal hat-trick at Old Traf­ford against Fener­bahce in the Cham­pi­ons League. Nei­ther looked back. In re­cent sea­sons An­thony Mar­tial and Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic both hit the net four times in their open­ing five games.

But it was for­mer Ar­se­nal hero Van Per­sie who was the stand out.

He scored on his start­ing de­but in a 3-2 win against Ful­ham, fol­lowed up with a stun­ning hat-trick at Southamp­ton in a 3-2 win and then added to his leg­end with a penalty win­ner at An­field against Liver­pool.

In his sixth match the Dutch­man scored twice against FC Cluj in the Cham­pi­ons League to open his ac­count with seven goals.

It was the plat­form for a storm­ing per­sonal sea­son that ended with the Golden Boot as Sir Alex Fer­gu­son bowed out.

Now Lukaku has eclipsed all the strik­ing im­ports, but RVP, from the mod­ern era.

The Bel­gian has all the early hall­marks of be­com­ing a United scor­ing great.

Now, if he could just take the ball home in his sixth start against Ever­ton to­mor­row... off af­ter

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