Ronald Koeman sees Romelu Lukaku as Everton’s biggest threat in Sunday’s Manchester United clash

Everton manager Ronald Koeman has told his players that they must improve defensively if they are to contain former striker Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Everton head to the Theatre of Dreams at probably the worst time to do so. United are in good form this season, winning the first three Premier League matches this season, scoring ten goals and conceding none. Last weekend against Stoke City, United dropped their first points of the season in the 2-2 draw, also conceding their first two goals of the season. Everton, on the other hand, have not had a great start this season.

Koeman’s side have lost their last three matches, 2-0 to Chelsea, 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur and 3-0 to Atalanta, which with another defeat seemingly on the cards at Old Trafford, will put the club in to dire straits after their biggest splurge in the transfer market in the summer. Wayne Rooney will return to his former club for the first time, which will be a big occasion for him and Everton, but the task in hand will be much tougher.

Lukaku, 24, made the move to Old Trafford from Goodison Park in the summer in a £75 million deal which could rise to £90 million. The Belgian striker has already found the back of the net six times in six matches, four of those being in the Premier League, one against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup and the other against FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the week. Koeman, speaking about Lukaku ahead of his side’s visit to Old Trafford, said:

“We know him really well. He’s one of the best strikers.

“I mentioned several times last season he’s a great finisher. I hope that we know how we have to defend against him.

“There are a lot of individual qualities in the players around him (at United). In the box he’s really dangerous, he’s fast, he’s strong.

“If we defend how we’ve defended in the last few games then maybe it will be his afternoon.”

Koeman added a few names to his squad in the summer, especially in the striker role, but none of which will assume the position Lukaku had the Blue’s in last season, scoring 25 goals in the Premier League. Rooney, a former Blue coming back to the club after being released by United will not be the player to fill in for what Lukaku achieved, although he is the only player to have found the back of the net for Everton in the Premier League this season with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (20) and new summer signing Sandro Ramirez (22) early in their careers to be able to fulfil such feats. Koeman, speaking in his press conference ahead of Sunday’s match, said:

“There’s no frustration now because you can’t do anything at this time,” Koeman said of failing to add another attacker.

“It is different in our ball possession if you have a target man in front. You saw with Atalanta (on Thursday), their striker (Andrea Petagna) was strong, he kept the ball, it allows the team to come up and keep the ball.

“We have different types in Dominic and Sandro. Sandro needs time to adapt to the Premier League. Yes, he has pace but he’s not physically the strongest.

“But it’s too easy to mention the strikers. Defensively we are making too many mistakes.”

Old Trafford is a happy hunting ground for Ronald Koeman, in the past at least. His Southampton side beat Louis van Gaal’s side at the Theatre of Dreams in 2015 and 2016 and a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty was the difference to stop Koeman from getting a hat-trick of wins in April 2017 with another 1-1 draw on the cards between United and Everton, both home and away last season. Koeman is impressed with the side Jose Mourinho has assembled this season, which must be taken as a compliment, maybe a veiled one. Koeman is expecting a much bigger test at Old Trafford this time, saying:

“It’s how you look at it – maybe it’s good that in the last three seasons I’ve had good results at Old Trafford.

“But Manchester United are really strong, a stronger team than last season and at the moment we’re not at the level we were last season.”

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