MANCHESTER: Romelu Lukaku provided himself, manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester United with a perfect start to his Old Trafford by sending out a warning message to the rest of the Premier League than the 20-times champions are deadly serious in pursuit of record-extending title No21.
Lukaku struck United’s first two goals in their 4-0 defeat of a frail West Ham at Old Trafford. The two managers, Mourinho and Slaven Bilic, walked off side-by-side at the end of the first half but that was the only time the two were equals.
United were a dour machine last season as they ground their way to victory in the Europa League and ‘only’ sixth place in the league. But the evidence against West Ham was that Mourinho, happy with his new signings, is building a team capable of resurrecting the entertaining football forgotten under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal.
Lukaku, £75m summer signing from Everton, opened the scoring after 33 minutes following superb piece of penetrative creative football by Marcus Rashford. He then headed the second just seven minutes into the second half.
Rashford, also outstanding in front of England manager Gareth Southgate, also struck a post midway through the second half before newly-arrived substitute Antony Martial and then Paul Pogba scored United’s third and fourth in the 88th and 90th minutes.
Not that Lukaku can carry United on his own. Mourinho has acknowledged he needs more goals from all around the team to maintain his record of always winning a title in his second season.
On the eve of the game he said: “What I had in other clubs was more players scoring goals. What we had was midfielders, wingers and central defenders scoring. Last season that didn’t happen much. We were focused on the striker scoring goals and when it didn’t happen we were in trouble.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, training at Carrington after knee ligament damage, will be offered a new deal once he recovers and Mourinho is confident this season will be different.
He added: “We can win the league. We have more experience of working together with a much better pre-season than last season, and we have confidence levels of a team that won a European competition and is back in the Champions League, so our motivation and confidence levels are higher and the knowledge between ourselves is higher.
“We are ready.”
** Tottenham were accused in midweek by their own fullback Danny Rose of not spending enough on wages or new players. But there was nothing wrong with his team-mates’ motivation as Spurs, second last season, opened the new campaign with a 2:0 win at promoted Newcastle.
Ben Davies scored Spurs’ second goal.