Expectations at Old Trafford have always been high.
Over the previous three decades, Manchester United have become one of the most successful club teams in Europe with Sir Alex Ferguson creating an era of dominance that brought success and trophies on a previously unprecedented scale.
His successors may not have been able to directly replicate his achievements, both David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal won just won FA Cup between them, but the raised bar that he set remains in place.
Expectations of individual players are also high, especially if you happen to be a striker.
Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Robin Van Persie, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham are just a small selection of prestigious names that have shouldered the goal scoring responsibility at Old Trafford.
So, it would be fair to say that Romelu Lukaku has some rather large historical boots to fill.
He was brought in by Jose Mourinho to be the focal point of the Manchester United attack and to placate some of the goal scoring issues that the Portuguese coach had experience in his debut season with the club.
A big-name striker, following in the footsteps of club legends, at a club that demands success – expectations were certainly high.
So, how do we rate Lukaku’s first season with Manchester United?
On Wednesday evening the Belgian climbed off the bench at the Vitality Stadium to score the goal that secured three points against Bournemouth. It was the 24-year-old’s 16th Premier League strike of the season and the 27th goal that he has netted in all competitions so far this campaign.
In basic terms, this season has been the most successful and prolific in front of goal in Lukaku’s career.
Mourinho has been using the Belgian as a lone striker and the focal point of Manchester United’s attack in a campaign in which the club has struggled to maintain pace with their cross-city rivals.
Lukaku has demonstrated that he possesses the pace, power and strength to become one of the leading strikers in world football and when he is fit, confident and on form the 24-year-old is as good as anyone else in the business.
However, despite his considerable goal return Lukaku has not been without his critics in his debut season at Old Trafford.
It has been suggested that the Belgian is a fast-track bully, a big-name that only scores against the so-called ‘smaller’ clubs and fails to produce when it really matters.
Critics point to the limited impact that he has had in matches against Manchester United’s direct rivals – he has scored only once against a top six-team this season.
Some supporters have also become increasingly frustrated that Mourinho’s reliance on Lukaku has seen game time restricted for players such as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
The duo started the game against Bournemouth in mid-week and flourished in the Belgian’s absence, offering a more mobile, pacey form of attack that has often been missing this season.
Finally, it is noticeable that Lukaku has been lagging behind somewhat in the Premier League goal scoring charts this campaign. He is currently the sixth leading scorer in the league and has found the back of the net 14 times fewer than Mohamed Salah and 10 times less than Harry Kane.
However, when analysing the 24-year-old’s performances this season it is also worth remembering the pragmatic style of play that Mourinho has utilised.
The Portuguese coach is renowned for his defensive approach against other top-six teams whilst even against so-called ‘lesser’ clubs Manchester United have struggled to produce an aesthetically pleasing style of play.
The fact that Lukaku is on track to score 30 goals this season given the general approach of his manager should be applauded, not derided.
The Belgian has undoubtedly been a success in his debut season at Old Trafford but there is certainly room for improvement next year. However, Lukaku is still only 24 and he still has an abundance of time to grow, improve and develop his game whilst the peak years of his career are still ahead of him.
Manchester United supporters will be hoping that his significant goal return this season is just the start and that Lukaku will be able to build on the relative success of his debut campaign and push his game onto the next level next year.
One winner and loser as Everton close in on move for Kurt Zouma
Everton have had a terrific deadline day.
The French international was also reportedly being chased by Manchester United. However, it seems the Merseyside club have won the race for his signature.
Zouma suffered relegation heartache while he was on loan at Stoke City last season and will be hoping to avoid the same fate with Marco Silva’s Everton side in the 2018/19 Premier League campaign.
Winner – Everton’s defence
Everton’s defence last season was at times shambolic, and the addition of Zouma will no doubt shore things up for the Toffees, especially if he strikes up a strong and stable partnership with another of the club’s deadline day signings, Yerry Mina.
If Zouma can display some of the talent that has seen his parent club Chelsea offer him a deal until 2023 and Mina can reproduce the form he showed playing for Columbia at this summer’s World Cup, a partnership between the Frenchman and Colombian has the potential to be something great.
Everton fans will be over the moon with their deadline day heroics, and the new Premier League campaign promises to be an exciting one for them.
Loser – Manchester United
It has been a deadline day to forget if you are a Manchester United fan, and nothing seems to be going right for Jose Mourinho’s side this summer, with many promised signings falling through.
Reports suggested United would go head to head with Everton to capture Zouma for the season, but it appears Mourinho has lost out again.
It seems Zouma will be the final nail in the deadline day coffin for the Red Devils, and it looks as if they will not end up signing anyone before the 5 pm deadline.
Manchester United 2018/19 preview: Lukaku’s goals, centre-back signing and unhappy Mourinho
After a second placed finish in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho will be desperate for his Manchester United side to close the gap on champions City this term.
Ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, we caught up with fan site Stretty News to get the low-down on progress made on and off the pitch…
What do you make of your club’s pre-season preparations, both on and off the pitch?
All you need to do is listen to Jose Mourinho and he is not happy, and understandably so, really.
Ed Woodward hasn’t delivered the targets that the United boss set out at the start of summer and that causes a big problem because the club finished 19 points behind Manchester City last season.
You would have thought that with the squad Mourinho had available to him that they would make some big additions to try and narrow that gap.
Off the pitch, the mood isn’t good and that makes it very difficult to be optimistic ahead of the new season. At the same time, you do not want your manager to be talking rubbish.
Although Mourinho is being down beat he is probably just being realistic.
These young players go out on tour with Pep Guardiola’s City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and both managers really big them up, explaining how well they’ve done on tour.
That’s all well and good, but are they actually going to work with them during the season when he has to win Premier League matches and compete in the Premier League?
In that sense, I just see Mourinho as being more realistic. I would much rather him say what he actually thinks, rather than making grand statements just to please fans.
Which of your club’s summer signing has you most excited about the new campaign?
Fred is an exciting signing and I’m really look forward to seeing what he can bring to the team. From what I’ve seen, he looks busy. A box-to-box midfielder who will compliment Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic nicely.
Lee Grant has impressed on tour. He looks decent, as a back up option, but no more than that. You would like to think that his professionalism will spread amongst the camp because he is a senior player. The likes of Marcus Rashford could really benefit from being around that.
I don’t think many people know much about Diogo Dalot as he only played eight times for FC Porto’s first team. It’s very hard to judge him based on that.
Who’s your club’s young-player-who-could-make-a-breakthrough this season?
Andreas Pereira has just come back from Valencia on loan. He didn’t have the greatest time over in Spain but he has been a stand-out player on tour.
I spoke to someone quite close to Pereira, who admitted that his development in the last year hasn’t been quite as expected. There were fears that he wouldn’t be good enough for Manchester United.
But he came on tour and he’s been playing in a deeper role due to a lack of midfielders. I watched him as a youngster and he always played across the attacking midfield positions.
Given the injuries at the club and the breaks players are on because of the World Cup, I think Pereira will start the season for United and it is a great opportunity for him in that deep midfield role.
What will be your club’s biggest factor behind achieving its targets this season?
We have to get Romelu Lukaku scoring more goals in the league but at the same time we cannot be so over-reliant on the Belgian and we need to see goals coming from elsewhere in the team.
Alexis Sanchez has been another stand-out player on tour. He looks hungry, more like the player we know from Arsenal. If he hits the ground running this season he is someone who can win games on his own – that will be a massive factor.
Some of the big names need to start standing up and being counted. They need to start becoming the players that Manchester United signed, rather than allowing writers, like, us to make excuses for them, for example ‘oh, they’re still settling in’ or ‘they haven’t got the players to accommodate them’.
This is the year the jigsaw has to come together.
What will be your club’s biggest barrier to achieving its targets this season?
This coming week. What I put that down to is how the club conduct themselves in the transfer market.
In the past, Jose Mourinho has always liked to have his deals done early, to get the most out of pre-season. The club didn’t vote for the transfer market to close earlier and, that, along with the World Cup has made the summer so difficult.
Before the end of the week the club need to bring a centre-back in and I they also need a right-sided winger. Toby Alderweireld and Willian would be perfect and they are definitely in reach.
Which club outside yours do you think has done the best business this summer?
It is going to have to be Liverpool and it’s about time. Some of the additions, such as that of a goalkeeper have been a long time coming. It shouldn’t have taken a year to upgrade on Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet but it did and it ultimately cost them in their biggest game of the season.
Klopp’s business since he has arrived at Liverpool has been efficient. He has signed good players, make no mistake about that. However, the Champions League final was completely turned on its head by the mistake of not signing a new ‘keeper last summer.
It says a lot that Alisson Becker starts ahead of Ederson for Brazil, a player, for me, who was just below David de Gea in terms of his performances last season. He is a very, very good goalkeeper.
If you had to pick a six-a-side team from your club’s current squad, who would be in it?
Finally, how do you think your team will have done come the end of the 2018/19 season?
Realistically, I do not see Manchester United winning the title. As things stand, I think they will scrape third or fourth place, overtaken by Liverpool.
I’m interested to see how Chelsea do under Maurizio Sarri, which is very different to the style of Mourinho. It is more adaptive to the way the Premier League is moving, focusing on attacking football and pressing. If they hit the ground running, they could be in trouble.
The said, if United get the right centre back in – which I think is Alderweirel – and if they can sign a right-sided winger – because last season the team was too unbalanced and, therefore, very predictable – all while avoiding too many injuries, they could shock people.
Leicester City’s Harry Maguire should try and dodge Manchester United move
Harry Maguire was the name on every England fan’s lips during the 2018 World Cup.
Leicester City central defender Harry Maguire rose to fame at this summer’s World Cup with a series of fine performances as England defied the odds and reached the last four in Russia.
The Sheffield-born defender was a vitally important part of Gareth Southgate’s team during the tournament and after returning to England with a warm welcome, talk has turned towards his availability in the transfer market.
Naturally the ex-Sheffield United man has seen his stock rise following his no-nonsense displays and, according to the Manchester Evening News, Manchester United are currently keen on potentially signing England’s star defender.
Of course, the Foxes will be desperately keen to keep the former Sheffield United man within their squad and it is likely to take a mammoth bid to even remotely entice them into a sale, but Maguire himself should think extremely carefully about making any switch to Old Trafford.
At the King Power Stadium the 25-year-old is a star attraction and one of the first names on Claude Puel’s team-sheet and that should count for a lot when he comes to thinking about how he wants his career to progress.
Maguire has played around 60 Premier League games during his career to date and he is still learning his trade. Would it really be a wise move to go and play for a manager Jose Mourinho, given his derogatory comments on the current youngsters at Manchester United this week?
Since Leicester won the Premier League in 2016 they have lost the likes of Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante and this summer Riyad Mahrez to the bigger clubs and they won’t want to make the same mistake with Maguire.
The East Midlands-based side need to ensure they pull out all the stops to secure Maguire’s future at the club and a new contract for the England man wouldn’t go a miss. Regardless of whether the defender sees his future at Leicester or not, he should definitely think twice about going to play for Manchester United, and perhaps more so, Mourinho.
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