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Lukaku hails Manchester United squad’s strength in depth

Romelu Lukaku believes Manchester United’s squad players have proven their “desire” to maintain the club’s pursuit of a top-four finish while a number of high-profile injured team-mates return to fitness.

With three of United’s first-choice frontmen absent in Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, Lukaku stepped up to the plate with two goals in Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace to further interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reputation.

Victory was the eighth in a row away from Old Trafford, and will have increased confidence ahead of next week’s crucial Champions League last-16 return leg tie at Paris Saint-Germain where United will attempt to overhaul a 2-0 deficit.

Alexis Sanchez started at Selhust Park, while Rashford came off the bench and full-backs Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot were given more attacking positions.

The discovery of further options strengthens their chances while they remain in contention for the Champions League and FA Cup, as well as a top-four finish.

Lukaku said: “It was time for other players to step up, which we did.

“We won the game and now we have to move forward to the next game (at home to Southampton on Saturday), hopefully keep the same level, win games along the way, and when the injured players come back, that they help us to get where we want to get.

“I’m happy with my goals, happy with my performance, but I’m happy with the win. It was really important for us to win, if you look at the other teams’ results. We did what we had to do and now we have to keep going.”

Lukaku, who wasted a further chance which would have given him a hat-trick, added: “If you look at my career I’ve always had good strikers helping me, so now I’m here with Ole I’m learning a lot, and every day is another day to learn, another day to improve.

“It’s always ‘Next game, next game’. We don’t want to be like a couple of teams talking about things and not achieving; we want to do it game after game.

“(It’s) desire. The desire to improve and win games.”

Palace were uncharacteristically disorganised in defence, where they were without the injured Mamadou Sakho and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Palace manager Roy Hodgson defended his players as he said: “They’ve got three players who are six-foot four-inches in their team. It’s not that easy.

“It’s not easy to stop Chris Smalling winning the first header, and it’s not that easy to stop Victor Lindelof winning the second header.

“You’ve got Paul Pogba taking away one of your best markers as well, and then of course the six-foot three-inch Romelu Lukaku gets in on the action. They’ve got some good delivery and some very tall players.”