After the Hollywood style introduction in Los Angeles, Romelu Lukaku’s debut for Manchester United did not go quite according to the script as the new £75million signing misfired in the opening game on tour.
Lukaku’s failure to convert an easy chance just four minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute was all the more awkward because the man he replaced, Marcus Rashford, had scored twice in the opening 20 minutes against LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center.
Afterwards, United’s new captain Michael Carrick warned that Lukaku will discover that the pressure of playing for United is a significant step up from what the Belgium striker has experienced at Everton and West Brom.
After 11 years at Old Trafford, Carrick knows that only too well after stepping into Roy Keane’s shoes and inheriting the Irishman’s No.16 shirt when he arrived from Tottenham in 2006.
In Lukaku’s case, he has taken on the No.9 from Zlatan Ibrahimovic who hit 28 goals in all competitions for United last season.
‘It’s a massive jump up,’ said Carrick.
‘I found that myself coming from Tottenham. You can’t really explain to people until they’ve gone through it and I’m sure he’ll find the same.
‘But having Premier League experience is a massive bonus. He’ll know how things work week to week. It’s just about dealing with the pressure.
‘Ibra was terrific for us but Rom is his own man.
‘When I came it was Roy Keane who came up but I’m my own man. Whoever comes in, you’re always your own man.
‘I don’t want to compare them at all because it’s not fair to do that. He’ll be judged like anyone else on what he does through the season and I’m sure he’s ready for that.
‘The scrutiny and everything will go up a level from what he’s used to. I’m sure he’s prepared for that and I’m sure he will do well.’
Lukaku’s big chance arrived in the 49th minute. Paul Pogba has been instrumental in his close friend’s move to United, and it was his interception and pass that set up Lukaku for a simple finish from eight yards.
It was the sort of opportunity Lukaku should be converting with his eyes closed, but Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe produced an excellent save to claw the ball away.
Another effort was scuffed wide on what was an underwhelming debut.
‘It’s early days,’ added Carrick. ‘It’s one week’s training and 45 minutes, so you can’t come to any conclusions.
‘We know what he’s all about, there’s no surprises. We all know exactly what he brings, that’s why he’s here.
‘He’s not going to change his game because he’s come here. He does what he does best and obviously he’s been brought here to score goals. I’m pretty certain he will do that this season.’
Jose Mourinho was also quick to defend his new signing after Lukaku was upstaged by Rashford.
‘He didn’t score goals, but he played better than the ones who did score goals,’ said the United boss.
‘A good thing for me today is he’s a team player and was not worried about himself. He was worried about the improvement of the team.’