Belgian striker scored in 2-0 derby win in Houston on Thursday night to continue impressive start to United career
KEVIN DE BRUYNE fears his pal Romelu Lukaku could make all the difference for Manchester United next season.
Throughout last term, United boss Jose Mourinho bemoaned the fact his side were not scoring the goals to put opponents away.
And when he agreed a staggering deal worth an initial £75million to prise the forward from Everton, many people were quick to mock on social media.
Yet City ace De Bruyne says his Belgium team-mate has an “incredible” scoring record and is right up among the best.
He even fears Lukaku’s arrival at Old Trafford may tip the balance in the title race United’s way next term.
KDB had a first-hand reminder of Lukaku’s abilities this week as he hit the opener in United’s 2-0 ‘derby’ win over City in Houston, with Marcus Rashford also netting.
De Bruyne — who saw his own transfer fee of £54m questioned two years ago — said: “I think he will do very well.
“Everyone knows what his qualities are and he will do what he has to do.
“There’s a lot said about these big transfers, people mock him and other players on social media. You know it’s there but you just can’t care about that.
“You just have to do your job and I think he’ll score 20 to 25 goals for United a season and that will speak for itself.”
The initial £75m fee — which could rise to £90m — makes Lukaku one of the most expensive players of all time.
But De Bruyne said: “If you see his ratio of goals, it’s incredible. He’s one of the best in the world and he’s only 24.
“You can say that about him at that age. Obviously he has his way of playing — don’t compare him to Lionel Messi. He’s a big, physical guy and can be awesome.”
His views were echoed by his City and Belgium team-mate Vincent Kompany who enjoyed a physical 45-minute battle with Lukaku at the NRG Stadium.
He said: “The one thing you get when you have Romelu is an incredible drive to improve and to score goals.
“It’s something unique and I’ve really followed his progress. The key thing with him is he believes he’s the best player in the world. It doesn’t matter whether he is or not, that’s how he approaches every training session and every game.
“If you think you’re the best you can never really be satisfied with yourself and therefore you keep working harder and harder . . . that’s what he does.”
City have also spent big this summer with Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and Ederson Moraes already on board.
But there has also been a defensive exodus with Aleksandar Kolarov’s imminent move to Roma meaning boss Pep Guardiola will have dispensed with all four full-backs from last term.
That is why his major focus is on rebuilding his defence — with Benjamin Mendy and Danilo poised to arrive for a combined £75m.
De Bruyne believes the new signings will take time to settle but is confident of a big improvement after a year under their former Barca boss.
He added: “In the beginning it’s always difficult. New players have to adapt to the way we play and are used to different things,
different systems. You need more than a week of preparation to get used to it and get going.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve seen a lot of change.
“We bought a lot of young players, we have a little project coming on. I now feel I’m one of the older ones and I’m only 26 so it’s nice to see there’s so much young talent around now.”