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Football

12th Jul 2023

Manchester United will still be left with an obvious problem if they sign Rasmus Hojlund

Patrick McCarry

The club would be getting a great prospect but still left short.

While a hefty clutch of Manchester United supporters will be concerned their club is not featuring with marquée strikers like Harry Kane or Victor Osimhen, the club does seem to be nearing a deal for Rasmus Hojlund.

The Danish striker scored 10 times for Atalanta in his first Serie A season, and scored six in eight games for Sturm Graz before leaving them. He bagged his first six international goals in the space of three months, earlier this year. In many ways, United are looking to get in on Hojlund early as they did with Anthony Martial in 2016 [the club have been trying to offload the French forward for more than two years, at this stage].

Atalanta are experts at scouting and securing prospects and selling them on at a big mark-up. They bought the 20-year-old from Graz, in Austria, for €17m and are said to be seeking €60m from United. What may bring the cost down, however, would be either Mason Greenwood or Amad Diallo [a former ‘Nerazurri’] arriving at the Gewiss Stadium for a season-long loan. Even if United offered Martial himself, they would have to stump up a fee, such has that player’s stock dropped.

With Greenwood [a loan is said to be United’s preferred option] and Martial both expected to be far away from Old Trafford next season and Wout Weghorst’s loan not extended into a permanent move, Erik ten Hag’s side will be short of reliable goalscoring options.

They have Marcus Rashford returning after a career-best goalscoring season but the words of Alex Ferguson, back in February of this year, will ring true with many at the club, and their fan-base.

Rasmus HojlundAnthony Martial of Manchester United celebrates with Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford, at Old Trafford. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Obvious United issue, even with Rasmus Hojlund

Alex Ferguson was at Wembley, back on February 28, when Erik ten Hag secured his first piece of silverware with Manchester United.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the League Cup victory over Newcastle, during which Marcus Rashford scored his 25th goal of the season, the former United boss was keen to stress that the England international needed someone to ease the scoring burden.

“Marcus is fantastic,” Ferguson observed. “His finishing is always good and he always keeps his shots down which is really important for a striker.

“He’s in a great vein of form. Unfortunately for us, he’s the main source of goals, we could do with an extra one. But he is doing it.”

Rashford scored 30 goals for United, last season, but the pickings were slim after that. Bruno Fernandes was next with 14, four of which were penalties, then Martial [9], Antony [8] and Jadon Sancho [7].

Manchester City ended up scoring 46 more goals than United, across all competitions, United with Erling Haaland [52], Julian Alvarez [17], Phil Foden [15], and Riyad Mahrez [15] scoring 99 of their final total, 151.

Bringing in a young Danish striker like Hojlund, who looks to have a tremendous up-side, to fill that big gap in the vital goals that turn losses into draws and draws into wins would be a massive ask.

Rasmus HojlundRasmus Hojlund of Denmark celebrates after scoring against Slovenia. (Photo by Jurij Kodrun/Getty Images)

Man United hamstrung by potential club takeover

Erik ten Hag, and the chief United transfer team, appears to be operating on a smaller budget while the club go through takeover talks that could yet see the Glazers move on from the club. The Dutchman has shown he has the ability to make this team competitive, and capable of competing for big trophies, but he is not getting close to what he wants, in terms of strengthening his squad.

When José Mourinho won the League Cup and Europa League in his first season at the club, he was rewarded with four players – Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof, Alexis Sanchez and Nemanja Matic – that cost well over €240m the following summer. So far, United have picked up Mason Mount while parting ways with David De Gea and Phil Jones [their last remaining Premier League winners, from the 2012/13 season], as well as Zidane Iqbal and a number of fringe players. Harry Maguire, Donny van de Beek, Brandon Williams and Anthony Elanga could soon follow.

Mount’s best season for goal returns, from midfield, was 13 in 2021/22, with Chelsea, but he is another that will contribute without shooting the lights out.

As it stands, United will be asking Rashford to maintain, and even improve, on last season’s return and hoping someone like Alejandro Garnacho stays injury free and kicks up to the next level. Asking Rasmus Hojlund to arrive and immediately have a 25-goal season will be a stretch, but it is not impossible.

Even if they get that, and the likes of Antony and Sancho can up their goalscoring returns slightly, it will not be enough to really challenge Manchester City. If Rashford picks up a knock, as he is liable to do, they will be in a big hole.

Read next: Summer transfer window 2023: Follow the latest updates live in our hub.

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