Why Man Utd are justified in spending £72m on Europe’s 20th best young forward

Editor F365
Man Utd striker Rasmus Hojlund
Rasmus Hojlund claps the supporters after his Premier League debut.

That half-hour from new Man Utd striker Rasmus Hojlund really has made him a superstar; just ignore the price tag and the record.


Hoj soon is now?
Last week the Manchester Evening News breathlessly told us that ‘the future’ is bright at Manchester United because Rasmus Hojlund assisted the assist for Alejandro Garnacho’s non-goal. They were super-giddy about the almost link-up between two young United players despite – and this seems important – United actually losing the game at Arsenal 3-1.

Manchester United are currently 11th, which also seems mildly important.

And now the propaganda machine of the MEN is back with another update after some mild criticism from Graeme Souness:

Rasmus Hojlund’s critics miss point with Manchester United’s new striker

Okay, let’s hear it. Let’s hear why spending £64m (rising to £72m) on a striker who scored nine Serie A goals last season was actually an excellent bloody deal.

Manchester United’s new striker has barely played more than half an hour of football for the club and already the critics have aired doubts about his credentials.

To be fair, they were airing ‘doubts about his credentials’ months ago when it became obvious that United were about to pay a whole lot of money for potential.

On his first taste of Premier League football, it was clear Hojlund would suit the physicality of the division. The Gunners’ defence had a difficult time coping with the 20-year-old and will be thankful they managed to stop him from scoring.

Hmmmm. He had one blocked shot. He was something of a handful but posed no real threat to the Arsenal goal. There’s a strong narrative here but it’s not really backed up by what actually happened.

But, as has become common place with new United signings, the lack of an instant impact has led to criticism of the youngster already.

Again, the criticism has been around his cost and experience rather than the half-hour he played in defeat to Arsenal. Here are the actual quotes from Souness:

“I don’t think Manchester United are going to be any better than they were last season. They’ve spent £72m on a young centre forward in Rasmus Hojlund, who has not got a great goalscoring record.

“He played 34 games for Atalanta and only hit the back of the net 10 times. Now he’s come to a league where it’s really tough to get goals. I might be wrong but that’s one hell of a gamble for somebody that doesn’t have a proven track record.”

All absolutely fair and nothing to do with a ‘lack of an instant impact’? Any club spending £72m on a player who scored nine top-flight goals last season would be similarly questioned. So what ‘point’ is being missed?

Arguably, Souness’ opinion has been clouded by the success of Erling Haaland in the blue half of Manchester. At only a couple of years Hojlund’s senior, the Norwegian has proven he is already a once in a generation talent.

Is that the point? If so, it’s a really bloody weak point. Nobody is expecting Hojlund to be Haaland, but they might reasonably expect that £72m would buy you a striker with a decent goal record.

Unfortunately for United, those are not easy to come by. However, even then, for a 20-year-old to be scoring ten in 34 matches in Serie A is still impressive. Take into account his performances for Denmark and you see why Erik ten Hag has taken the gamble.

He scored nine in 32, actually. And that put him 20th across the top 10 leagues in Europe for players who are 21 and under last season.

For context, Folarin Balogun scored 21 goals in France and he has moved this summer for less than £30m, Goncalo Ramos scored 19 goals and joined PSG for about £55m and Nicolas Jackson scored 12 goals in Spain and came to Chelsea for just over £30m.

Arguing that Hojlund should have cost any club £72m after nine goals – when judged against those other players and price tags – is ludicrous.

Hojlund should also benefit from more chances being created too. According to the Premier League United are averaging a higher xG than last season which should suggest the opportunities for the Dane will come thick and fast.

As long as we agree to ignore that most of that xG came in one game against Nottingham Forest when they carelessly went 2-0 down after about three minutes, it’s all good.

Before being quick to write Hojlund off so soon into his career, it is worth remembering his age and the ability he has already showcased on the biggest stages. His first season will be a learning curve but with the right environment, the 20-year-old should thrive.

A ‘learning curve’, you say? It’s almost like Manchester United might not actually be any better than they were last season. That’s a long-arsed way of saying that Souness was right.


Fergie time
Elsewhere, there is some nonsense about Evan Ferguson switching to represent England creating some lazy headlines, despite him being way past the point of being able to switch after playing six games for Ireland. Oh and he absolutely does not want to switch. Because he’s Irish.

But why let that get in the way of a headline after Gareth Southgate described him a “bloody good player” while having a big old laugh about Leeds-born Erling Haaland?

‘England make Evan Ferguson plea as Gareth Southgate outlines plan for Brighton starlet’ – Express.

Unless the ‘plan’ is to a) lobby for a change to FIFA eligibility rules while b) arranging a lobotomy for Ferguson so he forgets he is Irish, there is no ‘plan’. And no ‘plea’. Because that would be weird.

‘England asked Evan Ferguson to ditch Ireland and follow Declan Rice and Jack Grealish path’ – Mirror.

Really not what Southgate said. He praised Ferguson and said there was no “inkling” that he wanted to play for England.

And the Mirror have a follow-up:

10 players to switch international allegiance as Evan Ferguson makes England decision

He didn’t ‘make (an) England decision’; he was just Irish. And for the record, here’s what he said in May: “Obviously, my mum’s English, so that’s where the tie comes in. I’ve seen a few saying, ‘Oh, will he? Will he?’. I can tell you now, it’s a no.”