Neil Humphreys: Perisic is just what Man United need
Man United need a crossing winger to serve Lukaku
Manchester United are in a race against time to sign Ivan Perisic.
The clock is ticking a little faster after the Red Devils' tepid display in a 2-1 win against Real Salt Lake yesterday morning.
Inter Milan want their Croatian winger on the plane to Asia for the Italian side's pre-season tour. Jose Mourinho wants Perisic after his wingers failed to take flight in the United States.
Real Salt Lake offered greater resistance than Los Angeles' Galaxy of mannequins, highlighting United's perennial problem since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.
Like Dracula at daybreak, an aversion to crosses remains.
Under Louis van Gaal, the absence of a conventional winger, all dazzling dribbles and whipped balls into the box, was less noticeable.
Van Gaal's art of the crab was all about trying to bore opponents to death with one sideways pass after another.
But Mourinho's approach depends upon the quick transition; safety in numbers at the back, followed by a quick counter, via a couple of nifty wingers, before finding the big man with the light touch.
Mourinho has signed his big man in Romelu Lukaku.
Whether the Belgian boasts the light touch is likely to become a matter of intense debate this season.
He scored his first United goal in Salt Lake City's Rio Tinto Stadium, a neat shimmy and drilled finish, but the shimmy was necessary to cover a heavy first touch.
No idea. No idea, my friend. No idea.Jose Mourinho on Manchester United’s move for Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic
Indeed, Lukaku's first-half performance again hinted at those caveats that came with his £75 million (S$134.3m) price tag.
He's certainly built like Didier Drogba, the definitive Mourinho striker. He undoubtedly finishes like Drogba. But he doesn't yet caress the ball like Drogba.
However, in the Belgian's defence, United haven't yet played to Lukaku's obvious attributes, and this is where Perisic comes in.
At times, Lukaku looked like a confused bull surrounded by nimble matadors.
The delightful Henrikh Mkhitaryan operated on a higher plane. His speed of thought was matched by a lovely, unerring finish.
The upcoming campaign has the feel of a breakout season for the nascent superstar.
But, when they play together, Mkhitaryan and Lukaku are not quite birds of a feather. Their strengths do not entirely complement each other.
It can be a boost for all the players. If he comes, then the likes of Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial have to step up.United wing legend Ryan giggs on Perisic
Since 2012/13, Lukaku has been ranked third in terms of headed goals in the Premier League. He scored 18 times (behind Christian Benteke's 23 and Olivier Giroud's 25).
He took flight for almost a quarter of his goals and yet a regular aerial service was distinctly lacking against Real Salt Lake .
Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard instinctively played to feet, with the pair combining elegantly for Lukaku's opener. But the Belgian's first touch almost betrayed him and he contributed little else.
Last season, Anthony Martial averaged 2.24 crosses a game, Mkhitaryan managed two and Lingard just one.
Perisic, on the other hand, delivered an average of 6.6 crosses per game. He also scored 11 times for Inter.
Mourinho plays the percentages. For him, Perisic has the sexiest of figures.
Had Mourinho signed his reported first-choice forward, Alvaro Morata, then a reliable crosser might not have topped his list of priorities.
But Lukaku's arrival, and United's inability to find the burly Belgian with any frequency in the two American friendlies, adds to the sense of urgency.
REGULAR GOAL SUPPLY
Perisic can hit a moving target with a deft flick of his instep. Lukaku has a head for heights. If their respective strengths meet in the middle of the box, United are guaranteed a regular goal supply.
And Mourinho will also have an attacking alternative.
In Mkhitaryan, Lingard and Juan Mata, he already has enough inverted mavericks to cut inside fullbacks. But Perisic will allow United to head outside and stretch a back four to breaking point.
At the moment, Martial remains the nominal wide man, but his inconsistency - and his erratic crossing - must irritate the Portuguese perfectionist.
Against Real Salt Lake, Lukaku looked to the heavens at one point, presumably waiting for a delivery that never came.
Perisic could be the answer to his prayers.
Inter want at least £45m and are playing hardball, but time is of the essence for United.
A ragged performance in Salt Lake City must have convinced Mourinho of Perisic's value, whatever the financial cost.
For Lukaku to really find his feet, he needs Perisic to find his head.