Despite an agreement between Manchester United and Atalanta yet to be reached for the blockbuster transfer of Rasmus Højlund, the coaching staff at Old Trafford have already begun developing a detailed plan for how the striker will be utilised next season.
United officials lodged a first offer for Højlund with their Italian counterparts yesterday.
A fee in the region of €60million (comprising a €50million base offer with €10m in add-ons) has been proposed, which appears to still be €10m short of Atalanta’s valuation. The feeling is a compromise will be reached by the weekend however.
Samuel Luckhurst reports Old Trafford officials have relayed their confidence Højlund will be a United player “in time for their first game of the Premier League season against Wolves.” It’s a sight which his prospective new manager, Erik ten Hag, will be intensely eager to see.
The Dutch manager detailed United’s inability to score last night, in a pre-season friendly defeat by Real Madrid, as why a new centre-forward is “absolutely” paramount this summer. The club cannot enter another season with Antony Martial as the lone striker in the squad; one, if not two, recruits are necessary.
Højlund is the primary solution to this, but a player still considered a “rough diamond” by United.
The 20-year-old striker has completed only one full season in top level European football and, despite demonstrating his obvious potential, returned just nine league goals in thirty-two games. It feels unrealistic to expect the Dane to hit the ground running in Europe’s toughest league from day one.
The Athletic contends this is a reality United officials are acutely aware of.
Staff believe Hojlund will require “time to settle” and may need “rotating in and out of the team” early in his Old Trafford career. The possibility of “playing him on the left”, with Marcus Rashford operating through the middle, has even been mooted; a plan designed to ease the burden of expectation on the Danish forward.
A total financial package in excess of £60 million is believed to be required to secure Højlund’s services. It represents a significant investment, in a position of overwhelming need, for a player who may not be ready to contribute immediately.
United scouts have thoroughly examined an extensive range of strikers this summer and still believe Højlund to be the best option.
This is largely due to “confidence in Ten Hag’s abilities” to extract a higher, and more consistent, level of performance from the Atalanta man. The coaching team believe Højlund capable of “scoring regularly in the Premier League” with the correct guidance and progression. Ten Hag is thought to personally consider the Dane a “perfect fit” in his tactical system.
While United fans should be encouraged by what appears a very detailed and diligent plan for Højlund, concerns about the forward’s inexperience, and his ability to quickly adapt to Premier League football, relative to his proposed price, are justified.
When combined with the paucity of reliable goals in this United team, Ten Hag’s success next season will almost certainly hinge on this transfer gamble.