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Romelu Lukaku place under threat as Jose Mourinho eyes rotation policy

LONDON: Jose Mourinho has admitted it will be “almost impossible” to avoid rotating his squad as Manchester United bid to stay in touch with runaway title rivals Manchester City in the coming weeks.
As his United side get ready to face struggling West Brom in Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash, the recent poor form of striker Romelu Lukaku, who the Reds splashed £75 million ($99 million) on during the summer, has given Mourinho a selection headache after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to fitness in November came sooner than expected.
“There will be a bit of rotation,” said Mourinho without directly addressing the Lukaku situation.
“I’ll change a few players from match to match, because I think it is almost impossible for players to play all these matches in December and the beginning of January,” he added.
Lukaku did score the first-half winner on Wednesday as United beat Bournemouth, 1-0, at Old Trafford, but has looked below par for the past two months, with just three goals in 15 games.
Mourinho, however, is reluctant to rush Ibrahimovic’s return from knee ligament damage he sustained in April, which many feared might be a career-ending injury for the Swede. United’s manager suggested a week ago that the striker, who has yet to score since his comeback, is not yet ready to play a full 90 minutes.
A further setback off the pitch came with Mourinho’s confirmation that center-back Eric Bailly, who has not played since Nov. 5, needs ankle surgery and is likely to be out for the next three months.
The United manager is under pressure to get results and back into the title race during the notoriously busy December-January period after losing ground to Pep Guardiola’s City in the Manchester derby a week ago. The result left United 11 points behind the leaders. But the Portuguese attempted to put the 38 points his side have accrued into perspective.
“We are second. The number of points could be first in other seasons, but we are second. We go one match at a time and let’s see at the end of the season how many points we have and where we are,” he said.
Sunday’s visit to The Hawthorns may not necessarily offer an any respite for Mourinho and his side. Albion are on a club-record run of 16 matches without a victory, and have not scored in three games since Alan Pardew took charge, but they drew 0-0 at Liverpool on Wednesday with a disciplined display. Before that they dropped five points against fellow strugglers Crystal Palace in a 0-0 home draw and a 1-0 defeat at Swansea.