x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 August 2017

Romelu Lukaku has a debut to remember for Man United as dream double downs West Ham

  • Belgian has now scored 11 goals in 13 games against West Ham
  • Martial and Pogba also on target in Mourinho's biggest home win at Old Trafford

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku, right, celebrates with Marcus Rashford after scoring his side's first goal against West Ham United at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, August 13, 2017. Dave Thompson / AP Photo
Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku, right, celebrates with Marcus Rashford after scoring his side's first goal against West Ham United at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, August 13, 2017. Dave Thompson / AP Photo

From Wayne Rooney to Steve Mounie, it has been a bounteous weekend for striking debutants. Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata struck once apiece but a man as innately competitive as Jose Mourinho is likely to note that his attacking addition scored twice as many as the Chelsea and Arsenal arrivals.

Romelu Lukaku tends to gorge on West Ham United so a double was scarcely surprising. Nevertheless, an auspicious afternoon helped explain why Mourinho made him the costliest forward in the history of English football.    

Manchester United played with swashbuckling style. West Ham drew 1-1 at Old Trafford last season. They were beaten 4-0 in a rematch, Paul Pogba’s emphatic 90th-minute goal completing a rout. He and Anthony Martial garnished a victory that led to chants of “we are top of the league,” but it is easier to add extra goals when another has supplied the all-important first and second.

Lukaku did, setting up United’s biggest home win under Mourinho. It represented a flying start to the season. The Portuguese likes to buy players who do not need time to adapt. Lukaku and the excellent Nemanja Matic both looked at home immediately.

 

 

There can be a temptation to read too much into debuts. Yet Lukaku found the net on his United bow, against Real Madrid, and his first league appearance, just as he did for West Bromwich Albion and Everton, whereas he never struck for Chelsea. Many a successful striker at Old Trafford – Tommy Taylor, Denis Law, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford – had opened his United account at the first time of asking. Lukaku has done it twice.  

While the forgotten man James Wilson also scored twice on his league bow for United to provide a warning that there can be false dawns, Lukaku is less likely to vanish into obscurity. Instead, he eluded the West Ham defence at will. The deadlock was broken in the 33rd minute. Rashford surged from his own half and supplied the guile to accompany the speed, a slide-rule pass for Lukaku. He made a run inside Winston Reid and finished via the near post. It was the finish of a finisher, taken with assurance.

 

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As in Tuesday’s Super Cup, Lukaku’s first goal came from his second major chance. On each occasion, the first presented an unflattering impression. Lukaku lost his footing and the chance to slot the ball into the unguarded net when Juan Mata, after being denied by Joe Hart, centred. Yet persistence forms part of the striker’s armoury and Lukaku kept getting into the right positions.    

And it was a first indication of what £75 million (Dh356m) buys. In particular, it has afforded United another dimension. Ibrahimovic offered goals, presence and personality, but never speed. Lukaku’s ability to run in behind a defence brought him his goal; an earlier 40-yard burst only won a corner but highlighted the pace that past United sides displayed.

 

 

And they are quicker again now. The substitute Martial, who added the third goal, is electric. The teenager Rashford was terrific. He was denied a goal only by the upright and while he covets Lukaku’s central role, he suggested they can combine profitably.

Mourinho was right to use Rashford on the left, pitting him against the valiant but slowing Pablo Zabaleta. The West Ham debutant, and Manchester City great, was booked for a blatant block. It led to Lukaku’s second goal, the sort Ibrahimovic was likelier to score. The Belgian headed in Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s free kick. After 25 league goals for Everton last season, he has two for United.

And while Zabaleta made a goal-saving block to deny Lukaku a hat-trick, it made for a miserable afternoon for the London club's newcomers. The Argentine and Joe Hart, who was beaten four times, were taunted as “City rejects.” The United old boy Javier Hernandez was starved of service and while Marko Arnautovic headed against the bar, only one summer signing was on the scoresheet: Lukaku.