Lukaku bails United out

Romelu Lukaku rams in the rebound after Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster had parried his initial header. The Belgian's effort was enough to garner Manchester United three away points to keep them level on points with league leaders Manchester Ci
Romelu Lukaku rams in the rebound after Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster had parried his initial header. The Belgian's effort was enough to garner Manchester United three away points to keep them level on points with league leaders Manchester City.PHOTO: REUTERS

Belgian's sixth league goal sees United equal best start to EPL season and stay on City's tail

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Southampton 0
Manchester United 1

LONDON • Manchester United equalled their best start to an English Premier League campaign, after Romelu Lukaku scored his eighth goal of the season in all competitions to give them a 1-0 win yesterday at Southampton.

The result left United second on 16 points from six games, behind cross-time rivals and leaders Manchester City on goal difference as United's prolific close-season signing became the first Premier League player to score for three different clubs against Southampton at their St Mary's Stadium, having also done so with Everton and West Bromwich Albion.

The Belgian had unsettled Maya Yoshida and Wesley Hoedt long before opening his account for the afternoon.

The two Saints centre-halves were bouncing too regularly from his frame, as he cradled the ball in anticipation of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata or the livewire Marcus Rashford joining him at pace in enemy territory.

Lukaku can look unplayable at times. His sixth goal in as many league appearances for United was plundered in the 20th minute, Ashley Young patiently waiting to squeeze space from Dusan Tadic on the flank before crossing the ball to the edge of the box.

Lukaku had already held off Hoedt, the Dutchman crumbling to the turf but not complaining of a foul, and Ryan Bertrand was in no position to choke his header.

Saints custodian Fraser Forster did well to push that effort out, but the Belgian merely returned the rebound into the empty net.

  • ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

  • YESTERDAY

    West Ham 2 Tottenham 3

    Southampton 0 Man United 1

    Stoke 0 Chelsea 4

    Man City 5 Crystal Palace 0

    Everton 2 Bournemouth 1

    Swansea 1 Watford 2

    Burnley 0 Huddersfield 0

    Leicester v Liverpool

    Late kick-off

    TODAY

    Brighton v Newcastle

    Ch102 & Ch227, 11pm

    TOMORROW

    Arsenal v West Brom

    Ch102 & Ch227, Tuesday, 3am

Up duly went the chant that has agitated many, and prompted the forward himself to ask the fans to "move on", pursued for good measure by a chorus of "We'll sing what we want".

United defender Phil Jones told the BBC: "We are happy with the three points, but not too happy with the performance, maybe last season we would have come here and drew or lost it, but we need to do better than that.

"Romelu needs one chance and sticks it in the net and we are thankful to have him."

The visitors had manager Jose Mourinho sent off in the last minute of stoppage time for dissent as the Saints piled the pressure in the closing stages. Midfielder Oriol Romeu going came closest to an equaliser but he dragged his low left-footed strike just wide.

Speaking to Sky Sports, the Portuguese said: "It is not always possible to operate at high quality but we fought hard. We did what many teams in the Premier League do for 90 minutes, which was play with five defenders at the back.

ON THE LUCKY SIDE

Romelu needs one chance and sticks it in the net and we are thankful to have him.

PHIL JONES, United defender, who says the team did not play that well but are nevertheless pleased with full points.

"Credit to Southampton, they tried to play. (Mauricio) Pellegrino changed the team and sent on another striker to play more direct.

"It was a hard game but I am really happy.

"Romelu's work is so important for us. He scored his goal and worked hard like everybody else.

"Nobody feels the pressure to play always attacking football because so many teams play always defensively."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 24, 2017, with the headline 'Lukaku bails United out'. Print Edition | Subscribe