Manchester United fans have been told just what £72million is getting them, as the Red Devils close in on the signing of Rasmus Hojlund.
And it is claimed the comparisons made between Hojlund and Erling Haaland aren’t too far wide of the mark, with the 20-year-old Denmark international enjoying a ‘meteoric rise’ since signing for Atalanta last summer.
United have come to an agreement with Atalanta over a deal for Hojlund after weeks of talks – a £64m initial transfer fee, with £8m to be paid in potential add-ons.
The Dane was manager Erik ten Hag’s No.1 summer target as he sought a new frontman to lead his line, but the question on the lips of many United supporters is, well, why?
Hojlund hasn’t exactly been pulling up trees in Serie A, and his goalscoring record can certainly not compare to Haaland’s, even from when the Man City goalmachine was the same age.
His record of ten goals in 34 games in his one season at Atalanta does not seem to represent a £72m player.
But while many Man United fans wouldn’t have seen him in action, Italian football correspondent Daniele Fisichella watched Hojlund extensively in Serie A last season.
And he hailed Hojlund as one of the most exciting young stars to play in Italy in recent years, saying he has the pace, power, technical ability and footballing brain to become a real weapon under Ten Hag’s tutelage.
Although he admits the 20-year-old still has much to improve on, he has the arrogance and talent to really make it at the top level.
Rasmus Hojlund was one of the best young players in Serie A last season,” Fisichella told the Sunday Session on talkSPORT. “Actually, he won the prize as the best under-21 player in Serie A.
“He hasn’t scored a lot of goals – ten goals in 34 games for Atalanta, six goals in six games with Denmark last season – but his rise from when Atalanta brought him for only €17million [£14.5m] from Sturm Graz last year to where he is now has been meteoric.
“He started the season as Atalanta’s fourth striker, well behind in the pecking order to Luiz Muriel, Duvan Zapata and Ademola Lookman, but thanks to some injuries to his teammates and the fact that he was able to take his chances really well when he was given them, he then became a starter for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, who finished sixth in the table, which was the highest position they could have even hoped to finish.
“Hojlund was a breath of fresh air in Serie A last season because he’s a young player, 20 years old, very strong physically, but still very, very technical.
“He runs the 100 metres in less than 11 seconds, so it’s very powerful, he has got a very good acceleration and he showed in Serie A that even against more experienced markers and more experienced defenders, he can really hold his own. He is a player with a lot of confidence, with good skills.
“Of course, there is room for improvement, but the feeling is that Atalanta are selling now at a very high price, which, by the way, is the record sale fee for the Bergamo club.
“But perhaps in a year’s time, the price could have gone even higher because in Italy he’s considered one of the best strikers we have at the moment.
“He’s got a bit of everything. He is very energetic because of his young age and his physique, so he is a very strong presser of the ball. Atalanta are a team that presses high and Hojlund was instrumental in that. He really runs around closing down the defenders.
“He is good at running the channels as well, he’s good at running in behind, but his best attributes and his best quality is when he starts in behind of his markers and yet ends up being on time to meet the ball inside the box. So it is a player who, thanks to his strength and his burst of acceleration, can really elude the markers, even if he starts maybe a couple of metres behind him.
“In terms of link-up play, of course, his technical abilities and skills still need to be improved. He’s not the finished product yet. But he is a player that is full of confidence and you will see him trying, sometimes, even difficult skills. Backhill passes, holding the ball, trying to flick it, as he did many times for Atalanta.
“Of course, his finishing can be improved. Although he has good stats in terms of chances converted for chances created, he needs to take more shots on. He needs to be more proactive when he’s inside the box.
“This obviously was mentioned during his Serie A career, but he’s only a 20-year-old player and somebody that Manchester United can hope to build for the future.
“Of course, his scoring numbers are not great, but you have to consider also the team he was playing for, Atalanta, who had ups and downs during the season as well.
“He came to Italy with no experience, but he is mentally prepared for the challenge. If you consider that he moved from Sturm Graz to Italy, he was unknown to the majority of Italian pundits or Italian players, and he adapted quickly. He relished the challenge of not being a regular starter at Atalanta and he ended up as one of the best centre-forwards in Italy.
“Of course, this [joining Manchester United] is a step up for him. You have to consider that he is a player that has always been talked about as a very self-confident young player.
“Sometimes he might seem a little bit arrogant, if you don’t know him very well. But he’s got a good football brain, a good football intelligence. Some of his movements in the Atalanta side were really, really good. He’s not a static centre-forward. He likes to drift in wide areas. So, obviously, he’ll have to adapt to the stronger physicality of the Premier League, to the higher pace, etc.
“But I am confident that with a manager like Ten Hag, who likes to work on young players and improve them, he could make the most out of this move.
“And of course there’s going to be a lot of comparison between him and Erling Haaland, because of the Nordic origins and, obviously, the surname is similar. There are some elements of Haaland that might remind you of Haaland, especially the physicality, the acceleration, the burst of pace.
“Where he needs to improve to go as close as possible to the Man City forward is the link-up play, of course. Sometimes he could be seen as a little bit erratic, and his passing. His passing sometimes is not as great. But these are things that obviously can improve with experience alongside the decision-making.
“It is exciting for us, we have seen him in Serie A only for a year, to see how he performs in a much bigger club, of course, and with a lot of responsibilities.”
Hojlund is expected to be a Manchester United player in time for their Premier League opener, which is LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on talkSPORT, against Wolves on Monday August 14.
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