‘World-class Lukaku is big threat’, says Chelsea star
CHELSEA defender Gary Cahill admits his side are wary of the talents of ‘world-class striker’ Romelu Lukaku, ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup Final.
The United forward faces a late fitness test to face his former side in the Wembley showpiece tomorrow, as he looks to finish his fine debut season at Old Trafford with the silverware to match.
Lukaku never really hit the ground running at Chelsea, only starting one Premier League match during his time at the club.
However, the 25-year-old has enjoyed an impressive first season at Old Trafford – netting 26 times for the club since he joined from Everton for £75m last summer.
And while Cahill is confident his side will be able to subdue Lukaku’s threat tomorrow afternoon, he admits he is hugely impressed by the Belgian’s impressive development since leaving Stamford Bridge.
“It’ll be difficult. I’ve played against him and trained against him loads of times,” Cahill said at the club’s Cobham Training Centre.
“The cup final’s going to be whoever performs on the day. We’ve put the season to bed and we have a full week to prepare in the right way.
“When he was here he had talent but he was very young. He’s developed into a worldclass striker so credit to him. Sometimes when you’re at a club like Chelsea you feel sorry when you see a player move on, because naturally some progress and some don’t.” BEFORE the Sevilla scandal Jose Mourinho had planned on losing at least six players in the transfer window. A month later, the list threatened to grow and a Mourinho confidant bluntly said: ‘Jose is unhappy with the entire defence.’
Mourinho is particularly capricious with transfers. Just two months after he moved to The Lowry Hotel he was privately bemoaning a supposed lack of creativity in the Reds squad he had just enhanced with a striker, a playmaker and an attacking midfielder.
In April last year he was convinced David de Gea would finally return to Madrid but a month later United were confident the keeper would remain in Manchester.
January began with interest in Malcom and ended with Mourinho pondering whether to recruit a back-up striker for Romelu Lukaku. Then he said he had no intention of making attacking additions to his squad in the summer.
United supporters will not be jolted should the Old Trafford boss add Willian to his attack in the summer, or if Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian are playing elsewhere next season. When Mourinho said those two were ‘in my plans’ next season, you had to wonder whether those plans were transfer-related. Watford on Sunday was almost certainly their last Old Trafford appearance.
Selling-to-buy is not a policy Mourinho has appreciated in his first two summers at United and sources close to the Portuguese insist the failure to generate sufficient funds prevented him from signing Ivan Perisic.
United generated more revenue from the sell-on fees received from Michael Keane and Danny Drinkwater’s transfers to Everton and Chelsea (£9.3m) than they did from their player sales. Adnan Januzaj, sold for £8m to Real Sociedad, was the only individual who commanded a fee.
Senior United sources scoffed at the suggestion they had to sell to buy but, as Mino Raiola noted, the Alexis Sanchez deal was only made possible by involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a straight swap. Whether intended or not, Mourinho felt before the winter window he was being constrained by a de facto budget and he has spent £145.3m and £140.9m in summers where he angled for another signing.
If Mourinho is to recruit the desired targets then selling to buy is a suitable strategy over the next 14 weeks. Blind, Darmian, Luke Shaw, Sam Johnstone and Andreas Pereira could be shifted for close to £60m in the current market. Aston Villa and Valencia have informed Johnstone and Pereira they wish to make their loan moves permanent. Regardless of United’s interest in Willian, the attack is not the priority over the next 98 days of the transfer window. Mourinho would ideally make a minimum of five signings but sounded an ominous tone at West Ham last week when he warned it would be an ‘absolutely difficult market’ in a World Cup year which is also compromised by the early window closure on August 9. United are due to fly to Los Angeles for their pre-season tour in mid-July, which leaves executive vicechairman Ed Woodward with less than two months to conclude business early. United have already informed Juventus defender Alex Sandro he is their preferred option to strengthen at left-back over Tottenham’s Danny Rose and are pushing to conclude a deal for the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred. The club held informal talks with Samuel Luckhurst
Willian is a target for United