'Lukaku in right place and time'

Everton's Wayne Rooney will make his first return to Old Trafford today since his summer move from Manchester United. United manager Jose Mourinho believes that the English forward should get a warm reception.
Everton's Wayne Rooney will make his first return to Old Trafford today since his summer move from Manchester United. United manager Jose Mourinho believes that the English forward should get a warm reception.ST PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho says the striker is ready to succeed at the top with 6 years' experience in the EPL

LONDON • Jose Mourinho backed Romelu Lukaku to shine against his former club as early English Premier League (EPL) pace-setters Manchester United host Everton at Old Trafford today.

United's league record had been perfect until they were held to a 2-2 draw at Stoke City last week, although the disappointment of conceding twice was mitigated by the impressive scoring form of Lukaku and Marcus Rashford.

Now 24 and with six years of Premier League experience behind him, Lukaku is ready to succeed at the top level according to his manager, unlike in 2011 when he joined Chelsea from Anderlecht.

"I think Romelu has come here at the right moment," Mourinho said.

"He is at a good age. He has a good number of years of experience with different clubs in the Premier League.

"He has good friends already in the dressing room and has had an easy integration into our group. The way the team is trying to play has good relation to his qualities."

Lukaku's strong start to life at Old Trafford - he has six goals in six games for United - will help to offset the absence of France midfielder Paul Pogba, who may be out for several weeks with a hamstring injury.

 

  • ROMELU LUKAKU

    6 in 6 Goals to start his Manchester United career. The only time he has missed making the scoresheet was in the 2-0 Premier League win over Leicester.

Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are set to return in central defence, having missed the Champions League win over Basel through suspension, while Antonio Valencia should be restored at right-back, having made way on Tuesday as Ashley Young played for the first time since recovering from a summer hamstring operation.

Wayne Rooney's return to Everton from United - replacing Lukaku - has not gone so well, despite the English striker scoring in his first two league matches this season. Mourinho believes Rooney will receive the reception he is due.

 

  • WAYNE ROONEY

    2 in 9 Goals to start his second spell at Everton, with one each in his opening two Premier League games while firing blanks in five Europa League games.

"I think he'll get the welcome he deserves," the United manager said. "Sometimes the word legend comes too easily but he's a real legend of the club."

Rooney played 559 matches for United and won five Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Europa League, the FA Cup and three League Cups.

Everton have not won in five matches in all competitions and lost 0-3 to Atalanta in the Europa League in midweek.

Manager Ronald Koeman revealed he would hold a meeting with his senior players to try to get their season back on track before the trip to Old Trafford.

"It's time for the experienced players to stand up," he said. "I am worried about what I saw against Atalanta. It was a wake-up call.

"I saw the team with a lot of doubts. One of our strengths of last season is we had a good defensive organisation and we have lost our strength."

Koeman, who has no fresh injury concerns, warned that Lukaku could tear his team apart today if they do not improve dramatically.

"He's one of the best strikers," said the Dutchman.

"He is dangerous in the box and fast and strong. If we are defending how we defend in the last few games it will be his afternoon."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 17, 2017, with the headline ''Lukaku in right place and time''. Print Edition | Subscribe