| New Delhi
| July 18, 2017 4:53 am
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku (C) shoots to score (Photo: MUFC/Facebook)
Romelu Lukaku got his first goal in a Manchester United shirt as the Red Devils edged Real Salt Lake 2-1 in an eventful pre-season friendly at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah on Monday.
Juan Mata had to be carried off midway into the second-half and United right-back Antonio Valencia was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Sebastian Saucedo in the 68th minute to make it nervy final 20 minutes for Jose Mourinho's men.
United had thumped LA Galaxy 5-2 on Sunday, with Marcus Rashford running the show, but Mourinho opted to start his £75 million signing ahead of the young English striker with Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan giving the burly Belgian company in attack.
Playing in their black away kit, the Premier League side started brightly as they dominated possession against their American opponents but much to the dismay of Mourinho, it conceded the first goal. Luis Silva shrugged off the challenge of Phil Jones as he collected Jefferson Savarino through ball and calmly poked the ball past an onrushing Joel Pereira in the 23rd minute.
The Red Devils didn't take long to respond, with Mkhitaryan finishing off a well-worked team move six minutes later. Lukaku was key in the build-up, keeping the Salt Lake defenders off his back as Lingard played a quick one-two with him before the winger slipped in his Armenian teammate at the edge of the box.
Mkhitaryan took one touch before lashing in a left-footed shot which left veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando with no chance to save.
United kept playing in the Salt Lake half and were rewarded for their dominance when Lukaku rounded the goalkeeper to score his first goal for the Red Devils seven minutes from half-time.
The Belgian had stumbled as he received Mkhitaryan’s early cross, but recovered to beat the oncoming Lalo Fernandez before slamming home into the net despite the best efforts of some back tracking Salt Lake defenders.
At the interval, Mourinho changed his entire starting XI, with the likes of Ander Herrera, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashord all featuring.
It was a disappointing outing for Mata and Martial, however, for different reasons.
While Mata was forced off with an injury, Martial was profligate in front of goal and didn't put away any of the chances he got, as the Premier League giants made life more uncomfortable for themselves than was required.
After Valencia’s dismissal, Salt Lake started to see more of the ball and had a few chances of their own but Sergio Romero in the United goal stood firm to deny them a share of the points.
The Argentinian custodian, who recently had a contract extension, was one of the few United players who had a decent outing in the second-half, a worrying sign for Mourinho, surely.
United next play arch-rivals Manchester City on Friday in Houston and Mourinho will demand a much-improved performance against the Sky Blues.
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