United’s Lukaku silences doubters against Chelsea


Tue, Feb 27, 2018 - Page 16

Romelu Lukaku on Sunday quietened questions over his ability to deliver against the best opposition by scoring and setting up the winner for Jesse Lingard as Manchester United came from behind to beat Chelsea 2-1.

Lukaku had not netted in any of his six previous matches against top six English Premier League opponents, leading to suggestions the Belgian was a flat-track bully, but he has now scored 22 times in all competitions since joining United from Everton in July last year.

“It’s not bad, but you can always improve,” Lukaku said of his return so far. “I want to do better for the team. At the end of the day, I’m at Manchester United and I want to win trophies. That’s the most important thing.”

United manager Jose Mourinho was effusive of his praise for Lukaku, as his personal performance mirrored the hosts’ overall display after a fast start by Chelsea.

The visitors deservedly lead through Willian’s strike just before the half-hour mark, but Lukaku got his break six minutes before halftime when he slotted home Anthony Martial’s pass.

He nearly had a spectacular second when his overhead-kick was turned over by Thibaut Courtois midway through the second period, but Courtois was helpless when Lukaku showed his abilities outside the penalty area to cross for Lingard to head home.

“I think he played fantastically well,” Mourinho said. “He was little bit lost, but then he went together with the team.”

But for a late change of course from United in the summer, Lukaku and Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata could have been lining up for opposite sides.

The Spaniard was high on Mourinho’s wish list before United eventually decided to move for Lukaku and pave the way for Morata to move to Stamford Bridge from Real Madrid just a week later.

Morata scored the only goal when the sides last met in November last year, but is now without a goal in two months as a lack of fitness and form has derailed his first season in England.

“Like the other players, he tried to put everything on the pitch,” Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. “For sure he can improve. He can improve a lot.”

Morata’s best chance came after just four minutes when he turned Marcos Alonso’s low cross against the crossbar.

He also had the ball in the net five minutes from time, but had already been flagged for a debatable offside decision that saw Conte intensify his calls for the video assistant referee (VAR) to be introduced.

“This type of situations can change the final result,” the Italian said. “For this reason I am very positive to introduce VAR, especially in England. We have to have this system to help the referees avoid this big mistake.”