Tuesday 19 September 2017

Exclusive - Gary Lineker on why Romelu Lukaku gives Manchester United so much more than Zlatan Ibrahimovic

BT Sport host Gary Lineker.
BT Sport host Gary Lineker.
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Gary Lineker believes Romelu Lukaku will give Manchester United’s forward line a potency Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not provide last season following his £75m move from Everton.

Former England captain Lineker is backing United to mount a sustained challenge for the Premier League title in the coming months, with Lukaku’s arrival fuelling his belief that Jose Mourinho has assembled a squad capable of challenging for the top prize in the English game.

"For all of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s qualities, he could not offer United a threat running behind defences given his age and Lukaku will bring that to them now," BT Sport presenter Lineker told Independent.ie in an exclusive interview.

"Ibrahimovic was fantastic for United last season in so many respects, but he was at the back end of his career and Lukaku is perfectly suited to a Mourinho team in my eyes.

"He is big, strong, quick, aggressive, scores goals, his hold up game has got better and overall, he is a very strong signing for United who adds to what they had last season.

"The only question we have to ask about Lukaku is whether he can cope with the big move, the expectations now on him as the lead striker at a massive club like Manchester United.

"He doesn’t strike me as a guy who is scared of anything, but there is pressure at a club like United and he needs to deal with that. We need to give him a few months to confirm he is good enough to score goals at the very highest level for United in the Premier League and Champions League."

Lineker believes the Premier League title race will be a battle between Mourinho’s United and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, yet he throws a wildcard into his mix of potential champions.

"It is very difficult to judge what is going to happen this season for a variety of reasons, with so many new players coming into the top teams and needing time to settle and find their feet," Lineker added.

"If I had to predict a title winner right now, I would go for one of the Manchester clubs and that is purely because they have signed some top players this summer and have two proven managers in Mourinho at United and Guardiola at City who will be determined to do better than they did last season in the Premier League.

"United have a very strong squad, both physically and numerically. They have two players for every position and that is why I am suggesting they will be the main title contenders alongside Manchester City. They are leaving top class players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford out of their team and that shows the quality Mourinho has at his disposal.

"City have brought in players in position where they were weak, the full-back positions and the goalkeeper. Guardiola has identified those areas and looked to address them, but we have to wait to see whether the signings the club has made are the right ones.

"City have bags of firepower and will score lots of goals, which is why I would just have them in the mix with United for the title.

"The wildcard once again will be Tottenham and if they can adapt to their new temporary home of Wembley, they will be close to winning the title again.

"The other teams at the top of the Premier League have made three or four big signings, most of them coming for foreign countries and they may need time to settle, but Spurs are ready to from the start now and have a proven team."

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