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‘Explosive’: Former coach thinks ‘unique’ Man United ace can become like Cristiano Ronaldo

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It’s a debate Manchester United supporters know all too well.

One that raged throughout much of 2023/24. One that has not really been answered, despite more than a few promising moments.

With 16 goals, Rasmus Hojlund’s debut season at the Premier League giants certainly falls on the side of success than failure. But while the man himself still has a lot to improve upon, there is a nagging feeling that is is not a Red Devils side set up for this old-school centre-forward to truly thrive.

Similar concerns are now being raised at international level.

Hojlund certainly played his part in last Thursday’s 1-1 draw with England. But not by posing a goal threat, rather pressing high, running the channels and providing an outlet on the counter attack.

Hojlund is particularly good at that; strong, quick and super-aggressive. But the 21-year-old has now gone seven games and eight months without a goal for his country, a run continuing during Denmark’s Serbia stalemate.

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand, then, must find an answer to the same issue that plagued Erik ten Hag at Man United last term. How do you provide a steady stream of opportunities for a man who’s main strengths lie inside the penalty area?

Rasmus Hojlund of Denmark  during the  EURO match between Slovenia  v Denmark at the Mercedes Benz Arena on June 16, 2024 in Stuttgart Germany

Photo by Damjan Zibert/Soccrates/Getty Images

Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund can do even better

“When you use 10 people to defend with, the end result from our star striker Rasmus Hojlund will of course be minimal,” former Everton, Real Madrid and Celtic enforcer Thomas Gravesen tells Tipsbladet.

“It is something that Hjulmand and the national team have to work with. It is important that you know that you have to serve your attacker, even if he is also working hard himself.

“We have to think big about how we can get Hojlund in situations where he doesn’t have to break against five opponents every time.”

Jens Bangsbo, a former assistant coach at Atalanta and a Dane himself, knows Hojlund better than most.

Bangsbo feels that the sky is the limit for Man United’s £64 million man with his ‘unique’ combination of left-footedness and searing pace. He has barely even scratched the surface of his potential and, clearly, the raw ingredients are there to cook up an elite number nine.

“When you have a guy like Rasmus, that you have to put him on stage and make use of the qualities that he has,” Bangsbo argues, via Tipsbladet.

“He has an acceleration that allows him to get to balls that few strikers can. Rasmus has some great top skills. One thing is his speed as well as his ability to shoot with his left foot.

“These are two quite essential elements in top football. It’s a bit unique to him. He still has quite a few things that he can develop, and that includes the overall game.”

Hojlund, the former Juventus coach adds, possesses an ‘explosiveness’ which could one day make him an aerial presence worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Cristiano Ronaldo. Given that the youngster has not scored a header since his Copenhagen days, however, this is clearly another kink which must be ironed out.

“If you look at Cristiano Ronaldo, he scores a lot of goals with his head because he jumps higher than most,” adds Bangsbo, who worked closely with the Man United legend and devised the ‘Creative Speed’ test personally for him, per Soccer Fitness.

“Rasmus will also be able to do that. It’s all about timing and doing it at the right time.

“I saw a player who had development potential and we probably didn’t expect him to leave (for United) after a year. We felt that there were some things that we could develop further along the way.”

  • READ: Manchester United stars at Euro 2024, fixtures, kick-off times

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