Mourinho’s plan to ‘rebuild’ Manchester United enticed Lukaku
Striker due to leave Everton for Chelsea changed his mind after talk with manager
Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku: “I always wanted to play for a club of this stature. Now I am here I want to take my chance and try to deliver.” Photograph: Aaron Sprecher/AFP/Getty Images
Romelu Lukaku could not turn down the chance to join Manchester United after hearing Jose Mourinho’s plan to “rebuild the club”.
For much of the summer it had appeared that the 24-year-old was bound to leave Everton for Chelsea, only for United to swoop in and gazump his former club.
Mourinho was in charge when Lukaku was given the green light to leave Stamford Bridge, but three years on he now sees the striker as a key piece of the jigsaw at Old Trafford.
United forked out an initial £75 million (€84 million) for the Belgium international, whose mind was made up by his manager’s plans rather than the persuasive powers of close friend Paul Pogba.
“We were just on holiday together,” Lukaku said of the United and France midfielder, who he was away with in Los Angeles as the move was completed.
“At the end of the day I had to make my own choices.
“It was the conversation I had with the manager that really convinced me the most, the plans and how he wanted to rebuild the club and he wanted me to be part of it.
“I am grateful for the chance.”
Lukaku has big boots to fill following the exit of injured top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the club’s all-time leading marksman Wayne Rooney.
However, the 24-year-old’s impressive ratio for Everton suggests he is ready to step up at Old Trafford – and the striker is clearly raring to go.
“It feels great [to be a United player],” Lukaku said in Washington. “It is something I always wanted.
“I always wanted to play for a club of this stature. Now I am here I want to take my chance and try to deliver as much as I could for the club.
“I don’t want to talk about personal ambitions. I just want to work hard on a daily basis and win as many games as I can.”
Lukaku has certainly been made to work hard during United’s American tour, training with his new team-mates for the first time within an hour of his move being made official.
Mourinho has praised the new boy at nearly every public appearance after a promising start, following up his first goal in a United shirt at Real Salt Lake with a stunning effort in the 2-0 derby win against Manchester City.
“It has gone well for the team,” Lukaku said of the build-up to the 2017-18 season. “Everybody is well prepared.
“We are working really hard and delighted to be here and we need to keep going.”
Mourinho insists Manchester United’s hectic-looking pre-season schedule will help rather than hinder, going as far to say as their American tour is “perfect”.
Complaints about United’s fixtures list dominated the end of last season, with the Portuguese’s side not only juggling domestic exertions but their run to Europa League glory.
It was therefore a little bit surprising to see how packed their 2017-18 preparations have been, with Sunday’s penalty shootout win against Real Madrid their fourth friendly in nine days.
Matches against the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and Manchester City in Houston preceded the Santa Clara encounter, with United then heading to Washington to take on Barcelona in Wednesday’s final match Stateside. Friendlies in Norway and Ireland follow before the Uefa Super Cup in Macedonia on August 8th, but Mourinho does not fear the schedule will negatively impact United.
Asked if the air miles being put into his players’ legs were a concern, the United boss retorted: “No, no, no. For us, not a lot of travelling. We managed to organise the pre-season in a way where we were based in LA for 15 days, which is fantastic to be always in the same hotel, always in the same training ground.
“The flights were quiet, short flights to go to Real Salt Lake, Houston was not a problem, and now we are on our way back home. We come here and now we go to DC and DC is halfway home, almost.
“In terms of jet lag, it is halfway home, so these next three days in DC is not a problem, it is just a good thing for us on our way back. And after that we have two more matches to play in Norway and Ireland, travelling in the same day, short flights, so I am really happy with our pre-season.
“And if [Juan] Mata and Ander [Herrera] are not a real problem in terms of injuries, I would say perfect pre-season for us.”
United’s American tour has certainly gone far smoother than last year’s farcical trip to China. Bureaucracy, disorganisation and bad luck meant their money-spinning International Champions Cup involvement ended shambolically, with the friendly against City in Beijing called off to the quagmire Bird’s Nest surface.
Mourinho has long preferred pre-season taking place in the US, in particular Los Angeles, and will be pushing to come back across the Atlantic next year. “It is the best,” the United boss said earlier in the week. “It is the best and I will try everything with my club to be back because, with all the respect, Asia is beautiful, commercially it’s fantastic for the clubs, but the conditions to work are completely different.
“Here it is about the facilities, about the organisation and everything is perfect, so we are going to try to persuade the club and Relevent [ICC organisers] to bring us back again.”
Meanwhile, United defender Eric Bailly has been banned for three European matches for violent conduct and will miss next month’s Uefa Super Cup clash against Real Madrid, European soccer’s governing body said on Monday.
Bailly was shown a straight red card during United’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo at Old Trafford on May 11th. The dismissal cost the Ivory Coast defender a chance to play in the Europa League final against Ajax Amsterdam, which counted as the first match of his suspension.
United’s next European match is the Super Cup showpiece against Champions League winners Real Madrid on August 8th in Skopje, Macedonia. Bailly will also be suspended for United’s first Champions League group game.