Gary Neville has a warning for Man United striker Romelu Lukaku ahead of Anfield test
Gary Neville has laid down the gauntlet to Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku ahead of Saturday’s game against Liverpool after suggesting he needs to prove his worth as a big-game player at Anfield.
Belgian striker Lukaku had a reputation for failing to make his mark against top level opposition during his time at Everton and even though he has started his United career with a glut of goals following his £75m summer move, Neville suggests his biggest test will come against Liverpool.
“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.
“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.”
Neville believes United manager Jose Mourinho will relish the chance to take on Jurgen Klopp at Anfield and he hopes to see a more adventurous approach compared to the defensive display that resulted in a 0-0 draw away to Liverpool last season.
“I think Jose Mourinho will know on Saturday, after going there last season when he couldn’t afford to lose and with a team that weren’t in a good place, that he has a plan which can be effective,” he added.
“This time it is Liverpool who need to win this fixture and I would expect a lot more from United in terms of being on the front foot.
“Liverpool can only play one way and are always devastating in that first 30 minutes, so United have to survive that. That first half-an-hour is crucial and Mourinho will know that.
“It always felt that way when I played at Anfield that if you can get through that first 30 minutes then it becomes a different game and you can start to play a bit more.
“It suits Mourinho in terms of his mentality. What I would expect is similar tactics from last season, but with more ambition on the counter-attack.”
Neville went on to suggest Saturday’s clash between the two most successful clubs in English football could define the season for Mourinho’s side, as he recalled how he felt going into games against Liverpool during his own career at United.
“This is the biggest game of the season for Manchester United for two reasons,” he added.
“Firstly, Anfield away is the ultimate test, mentally and physically with the intensity. There’s obviously less home grown talent but the atmosphere will be brilliant and it is a game which you dare not lose as a player.
“I was never excited about going to Anfield. There was always too much at stake. You only got excited when you won there.
“It is also the biggest game because United have played a lot of the lower teams, so this is their first real test. This game, in some ways, defines how they are set up for a tough run of upcoming fixtures, with Tottenham and Chelsea also coming in the next four Premier League games.”