Romelu Lukaku can fill the void left by Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United but must work harder and be more consistent, according to Jamie Redknapp.
The 24-year-old has signed a five-year contract, with the option of a further 12 months, at Old Trafford after his move from Everton and Sky sources say the fee paid by United could eventually rise to £90m.
Sky Sports pundit Redknapp has praised the Belgian and says he can replace the goals scored by Ibrahimovic, who left the club after just one season and is continuing his rehabilitation after suffering serious knee ligament damage in April, but insists Lukaku must perform at a higher level on a more regular basis.
“Lukaku will fill the void that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left. They certainly needed a striker. Alvaro Morata was the one that looked like he was going to United but in Lukaku, you’ve got Premier League pedigree,” Redknapp told Sky Sports News HQ.
“He knows the league inside out. He could be fitter, he could work harder, there’s a lot more to come from him and United fans will be hoping that Jose Mourinho can bring that out of him. He is a very good striker but he’s got to do it regularly.
“There are times when you watch him and you know after 10 minutes he’s not going to be at it. That shouldn’t be the case when you are talking about an £80m player.
“They should be doing it week in, week out like the Premier League legends Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer. They did it every single game but unfortunately what we think of Lukaku is that he doesn’t do it enough regularly.”
Lukaku had been heavily linked with a return to former club Chelsea, only for Jose Mourinho’s side to secure his signature and Redknapp believes his friendship with Paul Pogba could be important for United on the pitch next season.
“I thought Lukaku was a banker to go to Chelsea. However, as he said, it’s difficult to turn Manchester United down when they come calling,” Redknapp said.
“It’s a lot of money because at the moment the perception of Lukaku is that he’s a bit of a flat-track bully but he’s scored a lot of goals at Everton where they don’t create as many chances as United will.
“He’s obviously got a great friendship with Paul Pogba and it’s one you look forward to seeing next year. They will be looking to make their relationship, which works well off the field, work on it. They are two very talented players.”
Redknapp has also advised Marcus Rashford to “embrace the challenge” posed by Lukaku’s arrival at Old Trafford.
The 19-year-old, who made 54 appearances in all competitions last season as United won the Europa League and League Cup, will face increased competition for a starting berth as a result of the deal but Redknapp says Rashford must start pre-season strongly and fight his way into contention.
“If I was Marcus Rashford I would be thinking that it’s going to be difficult, but embrace the challenge. If Rashford got the opportunities he’s every bit as talented as Lukaku,” he said.
“Lukaku is obviously physically stronger but if Rashford gets the chance to play, and I see him as a central striker, he has got tremendous ability.
“He’s shown that with England, he’s shown that with United and it gets to a stage where he says I’ll wait six months, I’ll wait a year but there might come a point where he says I don’t want to wait any longer.”
Redknapp added: “He’ll want to play and Lukaku is his direct competition, not just in terms of talent but age as well. Lukaku will be at Old Trafford for the next five or six years so if Rashford wants to be a central striker he’s got to go head-to-head with him.
“He’s got to come back to pre-season fitter and stronger than Lukaku. He’s got to show exactly what he can do and get into a position where he’s picked ahead of him. Lukaku may have come in for £75-£80m but it doesn’t give him a divine right to play.
“If Rashford is playing better than him, he’ll be picked. He’s got to go out in pre-season and be fitter, be stronger and score more goals than him. That’s the attitude he needs to have.”Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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