Gary Neville believes Manchester United have signed a striker perfect for Erik ten Hag’s system in Rasmus Hojlund after beaming over the player’s debut for the Red Devils in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at Arsenal.
The Red Devils suffered their second loss of the season – and another one in north London following defeat at Tottenham – in going down at the Emirates Stadium.
The irony for United, however, was that Sunday was arguably their best performance of the season, with United playing worse and winning for example in their season’s opener against Wolves.
On another day, United may have won the contest; Alejandro Garnacho’s 89th-minute strike – with the scores tied at 1-1 – being ruled out for the narrowest of offside margins.
Arsenal then struck twice themselves in stoppage time with Declan Rice scoring his first goal for Arsenal and Gabriel Jesus breaking away to slot home a composed finish.
Nonetheless, Neville felt there were many positives to take from United’s performance.
And he feels that Hojlund, a £72m summer signing from Atalanta, is exactly what Ten Hag needs in attack going forwards.
Neville claims United have lacked a consistent centre forward for too long now and claims the 20-year-old is already better than Anthony Martial in that regard.
However, Neville claims that it would be wrong to heap too much pressure on his shoulders, feeling a lack of competition is worring. Furthermore, he suggests that comparisons to Erling Haaland will not do the player many favours.
Gary Neville hails Rasmus Hojlund impact for Man Utd
Stepping off the bench for Martial at Emirates Stadium after 67 minutes did not leave Hojlund much time to make an impression.
But the striker quickly got stuck in and put himself about, giving Arsenal defenders plenty to think about and leaving Neville impressed with his strong-arm approach.
“Manchester United haven’t had a striker they can hit for a long time,” Neville told Sky Sports. “Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t a target man, or a classic target man, Anthony Martial’s not, Marcus Rashford’s certainly not.
“But Hojlund looks like he will mess people around, he gets his body in there. He’s aggressive and he’s a runner.”
Moving to calm down expectations on his head, he added: “It’s important to remember he’s learning the game still; he’s only played a couple of seasons of top-level football. We’re expecting him to be Erling Haaland for Manchester United. That’s the problem – Manchester United haven’t got anyone else with experience with a similar profile.”
Turning the heat on Martial, who continues to be an enigma at Old Trafford, Neville concluded: “Martial, we’ve been watching him for eight, nine, 10 years at Manchester United and he’s not what Erik ten Hag needs or wants right now.
“But this lad (Hojlund), a lot of pressure on him, a big price tag, but it was an encouraging start.”
Hojlund will now link up with Denmark for their forthcoming European Championship qualifiers against San Marino and Finland. The striker has six goals in six games for his country and will be hoping to add to that tally, starting with Thursday’s clash against the minnows at the Parken Stadium.