Lukaku's foot injury a concern

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford comes on as a substitute to replace Romelu Lukaku (centre) after he sustains an injury during their Premier League match against Arsenal at Old Trafford, on April 29, 2018.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford comes on as a substitute to replace Romelu Lukaku (centre) after he sustains an injury during their Premier League match against Arsenal at Old Trafford, on April 29, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho hopeful Belgian will be ready for FA Cup final; Fellaini likely to ink new deal

LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was a worried man despite his side sealing their place in next season's Champions League on Sunday.

They also moved closer to their target of finishing second best to champions Manchester City, but the 2-1 English Premier League home victory over Arsenal was tempered by an injury to their 27-goal top scorer Romelu Lukaku.

He limped off and was replaced in the 50th minute by Marcus Rashford. And Mourinho revealed his concern over the Belgian's fitness for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 19.

The Wembley showdown represents both clubs' only chance for silverware this season.

"I don't know if he is going to be out or if he's not okay," Mourinho told reporters.

"He wants to play all the time. He is never tired and, when he has small things, he doesn't care. He still wants to go.

"So, for him to say immediately, to change him, it is because he couldn't play. But there are three more weeks until the final, so let's see. I know it was on his foot but I don't know more yet.

  • Premier League talking points

  • 1. TERRIERS NEED A RESULT TO AVOID DOGHOUSE

    The Terriers' total summer outlay last year was less than what Chelsea spent on Tiemoue Bakayoko, Arsenal splurged on Alexandre Lacazette or Manchester City forked out for Bernardo Silva.

    But Huddersfield will probably have to beat one of those clubs, or at least get a draw, in a torrid end to the season if they are to avoid falling into the relegation zone at exactly the wrong time.

    David Wagner's men have excelled to stay above the bottom three so far and, although they looked dejected after the 2-0 home defeat by Everton, one last mighty performance against the odds is not beyond them.

  • 2. HUGHES HOPING FOR A BLAST FROM THE PAST

    Mark Hughes still remembers that mad May in 1999 when Southampton won their final three games to stay, in the end, comfortably afloat in the Premier League.

    The club's former striker, and now manager, knows his team may need to discover similar form and harness the same kind of spirit if they are to avoid dropping into the Championship for the first time since 2012.

    Trips to Swansea and Everton will likely define which division they are playing in next season, but their fate may yet go down to the final day of the season, at home against champions Manchester City.

  • 3. A NEW SYSTEM COULD BE SWANSEA'S SOLUTION

    Six league games without a win has left Swansea's survival bid hitting the buffers at the worst possible time.

    Their fate is still in their own hands with three fixtures remaining but, judging from recent performances, including Saturday's 0-1 loss to Chelsea, the tactical system that helped start the turnaround - a three-man central defence - may not be the solution to get them over the line.

    Swansea, the joint-lowest scorers in the league, need to be bold enough to go on the attack against Bournemouth, Southampton and Stoke.

    THE GUARDIAN

"I don't think it's something, or I hope it's not, that in this moment keeps him immediately out of a game that is in three weeks' time.

"I never, when I finish a game and a player is injured, immediately go for good or bad news. I wait a bit more."

Juan Mata also expressed his worries over Lukaku, given the 24-year-old's form and importance to United's attack.

The United midfielder wrote on his blog juanmata8.com: "The bad news was Lukaku's injury. He is (and he's been) a very important player for us this season, I hope it's nothing serious and he can recover soon."

Longer term, Mourinho added that the club were close to agreeing a new contract with Lukaku's compatriot Marouane Fellaini, who headed in the stoppage-time winner against Arsenal.

Substitute Fellaini, who has been linked to Italy's Roma and Turkish sides Galatasaray and Besiktas, rose the highest to flick home the winner after Henrikh Mkhitaryan's second-half strike against his former club had cancelled out an early opener from Paul Pogba.

"I want him to stay, the club wants him to stay, I think he will stay, it is nearly there," Mourinho said.

"The position is that we are almost there but, in football, almost is not enough. I want to see the white paper with the United's crest and (vice-chairman) Ed Woodward's signature and Marouane Fellaini's signature."

Fellaini is out of contract at the end of the season, and has been a polarising player with fans since arriving from Everton in 2013.

However, the 30-year-old is one of Mourinho's favourite players for his physical presence in the opposition box and the Portuguese hailed his impact off the bench following Lukaku's withdrawal.

"We needed somebody who could give us something different to replace Lukaku's height and power and aerial game," the 55-year-old added.

"In the end, we got the goal I think we deserved."

He also praised his side's stirring response after conceding Mkhitaryan's equaliser, with Arsenal hoping to end their unenviable record as the only team in England's four league tiers without an away win this year.

"For 70 minutes, we were not bad, but we were a bit slow, not really intense," bemoaned the manager. "But then after their goal, I reacted, the players reacted, the fans reacted, the intensity of the game improved."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2018, with the headline 'Lukaku's foot injury a concern'. Print Edition | Subscribe