Phil Neville believes Romelu Lukaku will be the perfect replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic

by Leo Nieboer

Phil Neville has tipped Romelu Lukaku to serve as an ideal replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic next season.

The Belgian has been pinched from under the noses of Chelsea and will complete a £75m move to Manchester United later this week.

He has been given permission to have his medical in Los Angeles, where he is staying with Paul Pogba, ahead of signing a contract worth £200,000 a week.

And Neville, speaking BBC Radio Five Live, was optimistic about what Lukaku will bring to Mourinho’s line-up.

“I think you’ve seen an improvement, I think there were of couple of criticisms – can he play in big games? Can he score in the big games? I think he half dispelled that last season,” he said.

“He scored in a couple of the big games and I think he is improving all the time.

“I think he’s a different type of striker from what United have had for a long time, someone that can probably run in behind, can be a little bit of a battering ram, that United can play on the counter-attack.

“I think with Zlatan last season United couldn’t play on the counter-attack because obviously his age and the fact his legs are slowing down a little bit. Now you’ve got someone with genuine, genuine speed that United can play on the counter-attack.

“It will be interesting to see how he fits into this United team because there’s a lot of talk about ‘Jose sold him, didn’t play him at Chelsea’, but that was four or five years ago

“Romelu Lukaku is a different player now, he is a better player. His record actually is sensational.

“I mean 25 goals last year, 18 the year before. If you go back to his West Brom days when he was on loan there from Chelsea [he scored] 17 Premier League goals. If he gets anything like 17 to 20 this year United will be successful.”

Ibrahimovic was largely deployed by Mourinho as a means of engendering a particular mindset. He was, whilst not consistent with Mourinho’s counter-attacking approach, there to sow the ideological seeds for what was to come next.

And this is where Lukaku comes in: effervescent, deadly, ebullient, like a bull with nuclear bombs cello-taped to its sides steaming through a china shop. He will dictate the ferocity of United’s counter attacks from the front, invoking a more refined mindset in front of goal.

There will be plenty resting on his shoulders; this is, you sense, the perfect time for him to step up from Goodison Park and inflict damage on the top six.

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