There is obvious risk involved in tasking a relatively raw 20-year-old with chief responsibility for Manchester United’s goalscoring.
As Christian Eriksen had circled in private talks with Rasmus Hojlund, the forward now enters a whole new sphere of attention, expectation, pressure and noise as the club’s new signing.
Nothing he has experienced in football so far could prime him for this stage.
Not only is he the focal point for a team – one of the very biggest in the world – that has ambitions of becoming title challengers again, but Hojlund is also an expensive one. The agreement to recruit him from Atalanta has cost United an initial £64m, plus £8m in add-ons.
But the club believe Erik ten Hag’s coaching and big-picture view can render that fee a steal in the long term.
The manager has referenced his “United project” in interviews with Sky Sports News and Hojlund fits the mould of meeting a need now while building for tomorrow.
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It is not by accident that he represents a shift from the late-career forwards United have tended to sign in recent history.
While it is inarguable that Harry Kane would have made the club instantaneously stronger, more solid and serious, no light could be seen in trying to negotiate with Daniel Levy.
Hojlund is young but the manager has perceived a surety and depth in personality that marks him out as an achiever. Like Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez and Andre Onana specifically, Ten Hag feels his latest recruit has the brand of large character required to cut it at United.
The package – including personal terms – to land the Tottenham striker was also prohibitive.
United couldn’t waste time on the sure thing in uncertain circumstances and so plumped for an attacker Ten Hag is sure about.
Hojlund is young but the manager has perceived a surety and depth in personality that marks him out as an achiever.
Like Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez and Andre Onana specifically, Ten Hag feels his latest recruit has the brand of large character required to cut it at United.
Hojlund also excels at making runs in behind, pressing well, being positionally savvy and physically imposing.
He is quite direct and aggressive in the final third, which the club have lacked.
His speed, smarts in creating space for himself and aerial advantage will offer United a different dynamic.
The club believe that as Hojlund has already played in and adjusted to three different leagues – Denmark, Austria and Italy – at a young age, he enjoys the challenge of mastering new surroundings.
United are prepared to be patient with their developing striker but, as Eriksen warned him, the rest of the watching world may not be as tolerant.
Hojlund backs himself though, which is a pivotal factor in him being a Ten Hag signing.
Eriksen: Hojlund is a very good player
Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen speaking after their friendly with Borussia Dortmund about Rasmus Hojlund:
“What’s he like? He’s a strong No 9,” Eriksen said.
“He’s developed a lot in the last year from when I first saw him with the national team [to] a year’s time, so, yes, he’s a very good player.”
Put to Eriksen that Hojlund had gone under the radar for many until the recent transfer talk, he said: “I suppose we don’t get enough media attention in Denmark. That’s why, so people outside Denmark don’t know enough.
“He’s a nice guy, he’s a good player. Like I said, he’s developed, turning into just a nine, which he’s played for the national team.
“I have to be honest I haven’t seen that many games for Atalanta, but I know how they play and he fitted in well there.”
Analysis: Hojlund has huge potential
Sky Sports’ football feature writer Adam Bate:
Rasmus Hojlund has captured the imagination after an encouraging season in Serie A and Manchester United are betting on the 20-year-old talent to be the next superstar striker in European football. But how can they get the best from the young Dane?
Sturm Graz’s tactics demanded Hojlund made penetrative runs in behind the opposition defence. “That needs a lot of sprints and a lot of quick decisions from our strikers, and I think those are big strengths of Rasmus,” head coach Christian Ilzer told Sky Sports.
“I think it was key that our philosophy and style fitted his skillset perfectly so he came into a good environment. Ras was a great addition to our team with his abilities. It was his speed, his general physique and his willingness to work hard against the ball.”
Erik ten Hag will welcome a pressing forward with pace but patience will be required. Hojlund has promise but United need to see significant progression to justify this outlay.
He made that progress at Sturm Graz and again with Atalanta. This next step is the key one.
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