Football

Time for Lukaku to show up in big games

United great Neville challenges red-hot striker to deliver against Liverpool

EPL
LIVERPOOL MAN UNITED

Romelu Lukaku has been in scintillating form for Manchester United this season, scoring 11 times in just 10 matches, including seven in seven Premier League outings.

The availability of the burly Belgian will be key to United's chances of breaching a porous Liverpool backline that has conceded 20 goals in 12 matches.

Lukaku had been suffering from an ankle issue and was forced to sit out Belgium's 4-3 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina last week, but the former Everton hitman proved he was over the knock by scoring in his country's 4-0 win over Cyprus in their final World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

And, according to his Belgium teammate and Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen, Lukaku "will be fine" to lead United's attack against Liverpool at Anfield tomorrow.

The 24-year-old Lukaku has scored five goals in 11 previous appearances against Liverpool during his time with Chelsea, West Brom and Everton.

Tomorrow's trip to Liverpool marks the first time United are playing a fellow member of the "Big Six", and former United defender Gary Neville has warned Lukaku that he still has more to prove against the club's direct rivals.

"Romelu Lukaku has settled in brilliantly and done everything he was asked to do in terms of converting those home draws into wins, but games like this one are the real test," Neville told Sky Sports News.

"When I look back to the Everton striker's recent performances at Anfield, he didn't play well, so this is the next step up for him.

"Going away to Anfield is a big test and his service will be more limited so he's now got to show the ruthless streak to win the big games for United.

"He will be defined by his performances in big matches.

"You're at a club with aspirations of winning things and a world-class striker will be defined by trophies and performances in big matches."

United manager Jose Mourinho said he will approach tomorrow's clash as they would any other match.

United are second in the EPL table behind Manchester City on goal difference. They have scored 21 goals and let in only two to sit on 19 points.

"When you are in a big club, when you are a big player, when you are a big manager, every game is important," said Mourinho.

"You cannot look at some matches as cup finals and other matches differently.

"For me, every match is a cup final and I've been like this all the time.

"It's three points, not four. If we are at a moment in a season where the duel between the two teams ensures, the result will mean more than three points, then yes.

"Sometimes a draw or even to lose by a certain goal difference is important. In this case, it is not important. It's just a three-point match. That's the way I approach it."

Mourinho has a good record against Liverpool and won his first trophy in English football by beating the Merseyside club to win the League Cup with Chelsea in 2005.

He has suffered some painful lows, however, against the Anfield outfit including Champions League semi-final defeats in 2005 and 2007.

The Portuguese said he was happy to travel to Anfield without any added pressure or emotion and looked forward to the clash.

"Do I like to go to Anfield? Yes, I love it. Do I like to play against Liverpool? Yes," said Mourinho, who will be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini who injured his knee while on international duty with Belgium.

"I like amazing stadiums, the best opponents but the preparation is not different." - WIRE SERVICES

eplManchester UnitedRomelu Lukaku