Lukaku cup final doubt

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku has not featured for United since suffering an ankle injury in their win over Arsenal last month.
Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku has not featured for United since suffering an ankle injury in their win over Arsenal last month. PHOTO: REUTERS

Injured striker, with 27 goals, may at most be fit for bench for FA Cup final with Chelsea on Saturday

LONDON • Having already secured second place, Manchester United fans under normal circumstances would be unconcerned about Jose Mourinho ringing the changes for their final Premier League game of the season in today's dead rubber against Watford.

The Portuguese confirmed ahead of the Old Trafford clash that he would again be tinkering with his first XI, with back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero set to start in place of David de Gea, while forwards Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are to be fielded up front.

But the United faithful would have had cause for worry after Mourinho's comments that top scorer Romelu Lukaku is facing a race against time to be fit for Saturday's FA Cup final with Chelsea at Wembley.

The Cup represents United's only chance of silverware this season.

The 55-year-old hinted that the Belgium striker, even if medically cleared, might be fit enough only for a place on the bench.

Mourinho said: "He's in Belgium having treatment and there is communication between the doctors in Belgium and our medical department. We are just waiting to see if it's possible for him to be involved in the final, if not starting, at least he can be on the bench."

Lukaku, who has scored 27 goals in all competitions, has not featured for United since suffering an ankle injury in the 2-1 win over Arsenal last month, and United have looked toothless in attack in their last two league games without the frontman.

Mourinho also revealed he was expecting the home crowd to give Michael Carrick, who will wear the captain's armband and is retiring after the game to join the club's backroom staff, a rousing reception.

"It is normal that Michael Carrick is captain at Old Trafford for the last game of his career," he said.

"Carrick is not going to end the match because I want him to leave that pitch alone. I want him to feel what the Manchester United supporters feel in relation to him.

"I'm not as sad as I normally am when my players end their careers because he is going to be with us and even closer to me than he was as a player. So it's just an emotional moment.

"He'll start the match and I'll make the change in some moments so he can leave the pitch alone."

While Mourinho was going to chop and change, he has no plans to go with a youthful squad.

"Romero plays on Sunday because he deserves that, and some other players are going to play because we as a team achieve the second position and we, as a team, are going to play the FA Cup final," he said.

"Sunday is again for Martial and Rashford. I also play (Daley) Blind, (Eric) Bailly and (Juan) Mata. I have every player apart from Marouane Fellaini and Lukaku available, and I don't go to the young players."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 13, 2018, with the headline 'Lukaku cup final doubt'. Print Edition | Subscribe