It was a good training session. I thank the Galaxy players for the training they gave us and hopefully Real Salt Lake can give us the same kind of experience. —Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
CARSON, Calif. — Like Real Salt Lake, its opponent Monday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, Manchester United, finds itself in the midst of transition.
The Red Devils' annual preseason tour is their first since 2004 without Wayne Rooney, the club's captain and all-time leading scorer. After spending 11 seasons in Manchester, Rooney will return to Everton — the club that originally signed him — for the coming Premier League season.
Replacing Rooney is Romelu Lukaku, a 24-year-old Belgian forward who finished second in Premier League scoring with 25 goals last season for Everton. Lukaku, who scored the decisive goal against the United States in the 2014 World Cup's Round of 16, signed a five-year contract after United paid a transfer fee of nearly $100 million.
Lukaku thus rejoins United manager Jose Mourinho, who coached Lukaku while guiding Chelsea in 2013-14.
"To compare Rooney and Lukaku is to compare the incomparable," Mourinho said. "Lukaku is more of a target man who plays with his back to the opponent. He's a point of attack for everyone who has the ball in the defensive lines. Apart from that, he's really fast."
The Belgian international made his debut in the 46th minute of Saturday night's 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the tour's first game. Though he did not score, Lukaku impressed his new/old coach.
"A good thing for me to see was that he's also a team player," Mourinho said. "He's not selfish. He's not obsessed with goals. He was not worried about himself. He was worried about the improvement of the team."
Lukaku will play perhaps the pivotal role in United's quest to return to the dominance it displayed during Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial tenure.
Since winning their last Premier League championship in 2013, Ferguson's final season, the Red Devils have finished between fourth and seventh under three different replacements. Last season, Mourinho's first of guiding the club, United won fewer than 20 league games for the third time in four seasons. The Red Devils secured the League Cup and Europa League championships, but those accomplishments pale compared with winning the FA Cup or the Champions' League.
Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme, who played two seasons in the Premier League, understands the challenge Lukaku will face.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure on his shoulders," said Van Damme, Lukaku's teammate with Anderlecht in Belgium. "But I think he can handle that. He has some brains up there. He works hard; I can tell you that. He always has. He will do fine. He can only improve."
Lukaku thus becomes the latest addition to a stellar roster that features such World Cup veterans as France's Paul Pogba, the Netherlands' Daley Blind, Ecuador's Antonio Valencia and fellow Belgian Marouane Fellaini. Complementing them are goalkeeper David De Gea, defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, and midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and Michael Carrick, United's new captain.
Mkhitaryan and Fellaini scored against the Galaxy, as did Anthony Martial, with 19-year-old Marcus Rashford providing two goals. Both teams played virtually their entire squads, with the Red Devils building a 5-0 lead while former United and Galaxy star David Beckham watched from a suite.
"It was a good training session," Mourinho said. "I thank the Galaxy players for the training they gave us and hopefully Real Salt Lake can give us the same kind of experience."
Following Monday night's exhibition, United will compete in the International Champions' Cup against three European powers: crosstown-rival Manchester City on Thursday night in Houston; Real Madrid next Sunday in Santa Clara, California; and FC Barcelona on July 26 in Landover, Maryland.