Jose Mourinho doubts that £75 million signing Romelu Lukaku will challenge Wayne Rooney’s record goal haul at Manchester United.
An iconic figure departed Old Trafford over the summer with 253 efforts to his name.
Lukaku has made a positive start towards chasing down that target, with six goals netted in as many games after moving in the opposite direction to Rooney from Everton.
While the 24-year-old’s opening bodes well, Mourinho believes the ever-rising standards in the Premier League will make it impossible for his big-money striker to match the efforts of his predecessor.
“I think Wayne spent probably 10 years of his career in a different Premier League than you have now, a Premier League where it was easier to score goals,” the United boss told reporters ahead of a reunion with Rooney on Sunday.
“Not just because of the difference between the top teams and others, but also because of the profile and the tactical interpretation of the competition. I think this Premier League is much more defensive-minded, and much more difficult.”
While any talk of records remains a long way off for now, Lukaku’s contribution will be crucial to United’s cause in the present.
Mourinho believes he has been given a better supporting act than that offered to Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season, with the Red Devils having made a bright opening to their 2017-18 campaign as they look to challenge for Premier League and Champions League honours.
The Portuguese coach added: “It’s not just about the striker.
“A striker is very important but last season we had a very good striker [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] for two thirds of the season and that was not enough to win the title. So it’s not just the striker.
“I think that Romelu has a better team than Zlatan had. Romelu’s team plays different football and the confidence levels are different and it is a team in the second year of its evolution in some aspects.
“But I think he also deserves credit for that because of the way he plays, the way he is committed, what he does with and without the ball, not just the last touch and the goal but his overall contribution. We couldn’t be happier.”
United’s home date with Everton is the last match to be played in the latest round of Premier League fixtures, but they can still end the weekend in top spot with a convincing victory over Rooney and the visiting Toffees.