‘World-class Lukaku is big threat’, says Chelsea star

Manchester Evening News - - UNITED SPECIAL - By RICHARD FAY sport@men-news.co.uk @RichFay sa­muel.luck­hurst@men-news.co.uk @samuel­luck­hurst

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

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