The answer to Man Utd's problems? Ten Hag's team are in desperate need of Højlund's goals
The start of Manchester United’s new season hasn’t exactly gone to plan. Despite picking up six points against Wolves and Nottingham Forest, a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and then a 3-1 demolition at the hands of Arsenal has unquestionably underlined the issues that still dog Erik Ten Hag’s side. The Old Trafford club may lay claim to the seventh most valuable squad in the world and the fourth most valuable one in England, but they certainly aren’t playing like it.
A huge amount of noise around the club seems to suggest that not all is well. Serious off-the-field issues with Antony have dominated the news around the club, while the rumour mill remains full of speculation over the future of misfiring stars like Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho. Despite a reasonably decent first season in England, Ten Hag’s tenure at Man Utd looks as though it may be about to fall apart. Fortunately for the Dutch tactician, he still has one remaining ace up his sleeve in a bid to get his team performing on the pitch again.
That potential solution goes by the name of Rasmus Højlund. Signed from Atalanta for no less than €75 million in the summer transfer window, the 20-year-old striker not only arrived as Man Utd’s most expensive signing of the window and the joint-sixth most expensive in the club’s history but also with the very clear task for solving a major issue in Ten Hag’s side. And if Højlund can do that, following an injury that ruled him out of all but 23 minutes of the club’s first four games of the season, then it may go a long way to getting Man Utd back on track.
Is Højlund the solution to Ten Hag’s problems at Man Utd?
While there may be a number of issues with Ten Hag’s side, the main one is undoubtedly the fact that Man Utd are still lacking a clear No.9 and goal-scoring striker. In their first four league games, Man Utd scored five goals. Which doesn’t seem too bad, until we consider the fact that Raphaël Varane and defensive midfielder Casemiro have to date proved just as clinical in front of goal as Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes or even Marcus Rashford. This, undoubtedly, is where fans of the club will be hoping to see Højlund thrive.
Varane, Antony, Fernandes & Co. - Manchester United's record signings
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And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Højlund is ready to step in and be the striker Man Utd need him to be. Last season the young forward bagged 16 goals and seven assists in 42 games for Atalanta and while that may not sound impressive on its own, when we factor in that he only played 2,551 minutes of football it works out at 0.81 goals and assists per 90 minutes. In comparison, Rashford’s average after an impressive run last season stood at 0.86 per 90. Indeed, despite his lack of game time in Serie A last season compared to some of the league’s leading strikers, Højlund still managed to finish seventh among his peers for total shots on target and eleventh for completed dribbles in the league last season. A feat made all the more impressive when we consider that it was his first and only campaign in the Italian top-flight, after making the step up from the Austrian Bundesliga.
Whether Højlund needs more time to adapt to the Premier League this season remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that in the young striker Man Utd finally have a proper No.9 that can score and create goals with ease. And if that manages to compliment the likes of Rashford and Sancho it could provide the perfect solution to most of Ten Hag’s problems at Old Trafford this season.