Manchester United are about to announce the signing of Atalanta striker Rasmus Højlund (20) and GIFN’s Jurre van Wanrooij explains why the move is more of an investment than a direct reinforcement.
Rasmus Højlund is the real deal. The Danish wonderkid is strong, quick and has excellent hold-up play. He has already showcased this in his first season at Atalanta, who picked him up for a little bit over €17M at Sturm Graz in the Austrian top flight. His numbers in Austria were enough to convince Atalanta Sporting Director Tony D’Amico to splash the cash.
The 20-year-old needed some time to settle in Italy and also had to fight Duván Zapata for the spot up top. He gained coach Gian Piero Gasperini’s trust and started showing that he was more than worth that 17M pricetag. His talent became evident immediately and as time went on his numbers started to catch up as well. I don’t think I even have to mention the amount of goals Højlund scored, because everyone has been seeing them millions of times now since the Manchester United links started.
For the people that have been able to avoid the countless comparisons with other strikers like Erling Haaland, Højlund ended up with ‘only’ nine goals in Serie A last season. Some of that comes down to the Dane’ slow start, but more importantly, Højlund offers way more than just goals. He’s strong, quick, has good hold-up play and works hard. He’s a very active striker, always involved and not afraid to get his hands dirty. Højlund also gained a lot of attention during the International break in March when he scored five goals against Finland and Kazachstan in the Euro’s qualification.
However, Højlund is also still very raw. The Danish striker is a work in progress. All the ingredients to become a top striker are there, they’re just not perfected yet. Personally, I think the Dane will struggle during his first season in the Premier League. Maybe he’ll get used to the league quick like in Italy, but I can’t see him scoring a ton of goals. It’d suprise me if he’d be able to hit double figures.
So why did Manchester United decide to pay a staggering €70M plus add-ons for an unfinished product? Firstly, because of Højlund’ scary potential. He’s one of the most talented strikers we’ve seen in Serie A in the past couple of years, and there have been a few. Without question, next summer, Højlund would be more expensive and competition for the Dane’s signature would have risen. Manchester United have simply made an investment: they decided to act quickly and sign Højlund before he and hype around him really exploded. Time will have to tell if that was the right decision or not.
Now, it’s a case of giving Højlund the time and confidence to develop himself. United have made the investment, hopefully they’ll be able to offer Højlund a good environment to become that top striker he has shown flashes of. If United fans expect the numbers Ruud van Nistelrooy or any of the other legendary strikers the club have had in the past, they’ll get disappointed. I can’t stress this enough: Højlund needs time, but he could get there eventually. So, for now, less comparisons with Haaland, and more patience surrounding the Danish gem.
Jurre van Wanrooij | GIFN