Belfast Telegraph

No pressure as £75M Lukaku delivers for Manchester United, and Matic wasn't bad either

 

By Andy Hampson

Jose Mourinho hailed Romelu Lukaku after his superb double against West Ham but insisted Manchester United's record signing was under no pressure to score goals.

The £75million summer buy from Everton hit the ground running at Old Trafford with a goal in each half as United thrashed the Hammers 4-0 in their Premier League opener.

Coming after a strike against Real Madrid in the European Super Cup last Tuesday, Lukaku has immediately started to pay off his sizeable fee but Mourinho will not simply judge the player on goals.

Mourinho said: "He is playing well, he is working hard. He likes the team and the team likes him. Any striker can play phenomenally hard but if he doesn't score goals the pressure is on them, so good for him, good for Wayne Rooney, Lacazette, Morata - good for all the strikers arriving in new clubs and scoring in the first days. It is always oxygen, happiness and confidence for them.

"But Romelu knows me well. He knows sometimes strikers can play very well for the team without scoring goals. He knows from me there is no pressure at all. But today he was good, very effective."

Lukaku himself said: "To play in front of such a crowd and for such a great club, it's a dream come true. The most important thing is the win - the win was good."

Lukaku set United on the way to a convincing victory with the opening goal after 33 minutes and headed a second early in the second half. The hosts spurned several chances to increase their lead before Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba finally put a realistic slant on the scoreline in the latter stages.

But while Lukaku grabbed the main headlines, the platform was laid by another new signing, Nemanja Matic.

The former Chelsea midfielder was outstanding throughout and Mourinho admitted he was surprised his former club allowed him to leave.

Mourinho said: “I brought him to Stamford Bridge because I thought he was a player with special qualities and since I left I always thought he could be a perfect player for us.

“I never thought it was possible unless something special was happening and it looks like something special was happening because his agent told me, ‘You can have him, you just have to pay’. We have him and we are very happy because (he) is a player this team needs.”

United’s performance was brimming with confidence and lent some justification to the pre-season optimism around the club. But Mourinho said: “Last season we were also top of the league after the first match and we finished sixth, so this means nothing.

“The fans have reasons to be optimistic but, for me, with years and years of experience and years and years of experience in the Premier League, my feet are on the ground and I am calm.”

The United boss said that new signing Victor Lindelof needs time to adapt to the rigours of English football before he can regularly start in the Premier League.

The 23-year-old Swede — who had a poor pre-season but particularly struggled in Tuesday’s Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid — was left out of yesterday’s squad and Mourinho has now admitted that the £31m acquisition from Benfica was not ready.

“I think Real Madrid was too early for him,” Mourinho said. “He played because Jones and Bailly were both suspended.

“I’ve had players coming from different leagues to the Premier League and normally it’s not easy. The difference between Lukaku and Matic is that they have years and years [of experience in] the Premier League.

“I brought in 2004 a phenomenal central defender to England: Ricardo Carvalho. He was one of the best central defenders in the last decade of the Premier League, but he struggled.

“It was difficult for him to adapt in the beginning. I think Victor is a little bit of that and he’s going to have that time.”

Mourinho treated Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a similar fashion upon the Armenian’s arrival from Borussia Dortmund last year and suggested Lindelof could need a similar period on the sidelines.

“Mkhitaryan is not a defender and last season he needed his time. Let’s go step-by-step, because Victor is a fantastic player.”

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