Manchester United close in on a striker
Manchester United may have exactly the right man to help turn Rasmus Hojlund into one of the best strikers in the world. Marcus Rashford enjoyed the best season of his career last term with a 30-goal return and the winger credited coach Benni McCarthy for his impact behind the scenes.
McCarthy has worked with United for 12 months now, the ex-Blackburn Rovers striker coming in as a specialist to guide the club’s attackers under Erik ten Hag. And Rashford revealed how the South African centre-forward – who scored 153 goals at club level and 31 for his country – helped him rediscover his ruthless streak.
He said: “It’s always good for us to have a particular coach that concentrates on us as a forwards group. We have worked more as a team going forward which has led us to creating more chances and scoring more goals.
“Benni will tell you himself his aspirations are much bigger than what we’ve done so far. He keeps on pushing us, keeps to try and get us to improve. He has been great with me. His relationship with me is very good. We speak a lot, we are always analysing games and showing me ways to improve.
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“You know, small things that can help me make more chances, more goals, maybe create space for other players as well. We are doing a lot of work.” And having worked wonders with Rashford, McCarthy will now be tasked with helping turn Hojlund into a predator in the box.
The 20-year-old Dane is heading to Old Trafford for £60million rising to £72m after add-ons. United had been hoping to do a deal at nearer to £50m but have caved in to Atalanta’s demands for the Scandinavian striker. Hojlund arrives after scoring 10 goals in 34 games in his only season for the Italian club while boasting six goals in six games for Denmark.
Ten Hag will look to his new No 9 not just to grow into the team’s go-to goalscorer but to hold up the ball and bring his team-mates into play with lay-offs and smart movement. And McCarthy could be a major asset as Hojlund looks to prove he’s worth his price tag, which makes him the club’s sixth most expensive signing ever.
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The Dane has previously been compared to Manchester City marksman Erling Haaland, who plundered 52 goals in all competitions in a treble-winning debut campaign in England last season. His Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini said: “He has very similar characteristics to Haaland, not just his face. He is so quick, he’s under 11 seconds over 100m and that’s not even trying very hard.
“Considering his height, he has a low centre of gravity and can move his legs very fast. I am convinced he’ll have a great career; he just gets stronger every day.” While the player himself admitted: “I would not like to compare myself to him because he’s a monster, he’s crazy!
“I can see the similarities: he’s fast, I’m also fast; he’s left-footed, I’m also left-footed; he’s strong, and I’m strong too. I hope that I can reach his level, but I’ll need to train very hard and be even more focused on the pitch.” Having McCarthy can only help Hojlund in his bid to be as good as Haaland.
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