Ronald Koeman says Everton must improve defensively if they are to contain the “dangerous” Romelu Lukaku against Manchester United on Sunday.
The Goodison Park side know all about the Belgium forward’s threat after he scored 20-plus goals in each of his previous three seasons with the Toffees before his move to Old Trafford this summer.
The 24-year-old already has six goals in as many games for his new club, while Everton have not won domestically since the opening day of the Premier League season, with a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta in the Europa League preceded by a 3-0 loss to Tottenham and a 2-0 reverse at Chelsea.
Now Koeman has stressed his side must tighten up at the back or they will be undone by the threat of Lukaku on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
“We know him really well,” Koeman said. “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 failed to land an out-and-out replacement for Lukaku in the summer, with Wayne Rooney the only player to have found the net for Everton in their opening four games, and Koeman accepts Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Sandro Ramirez cannot be asked to assume Lukaku’s role.
Man Utd vs Everton
September 17, 2017, 3:30pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
“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.”
Koeman claimed victories over Louis van Gaal’s United in January 2015 and 2016 with Southampton, while only a last-gasp Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty against Everton in April denied him a hat-trick of Old Trafford wins.
Nevertheless, the Toffees boss has been impressed with the side Jose Mourinho has built for this season and he is expecting a much tougher test this time around.
“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,” Koeman said.
“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.”