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He embarked on a less common route, covering a considerable distance, from FC Copenhagen to Sturm Graz, and then from Atalanta to Manchester United, all before turning 21. This achievement fulfilled his long-held goal as a devoted United supporter and turned his dream into reality.
However, in certain moments during the reunion, Rasmus Hojlund may have questioned if he made the right decision to leave. Not for monetary reasons, as the £72m price tag brings its own rewards, but in terms of football. Copenhagen appeared to be a more organized team, with their low budget and overachieving status, and it was tempting to imagine that if they still had their most valuable former player, they could have emerged victorious at Old Trafford.
Instead, United emerged victorious with the help of a crucial contribution from a Danish player. Although it was not Hojlund, this is not a critique as he has shown brilliance as part of United’s front three before. In this match, similar to the Galatasaray game, his performance was a result of his excellent abilities. However, it was his fellow countryman Christian Eriksen who delivered a perfectly placed cross that allowed Harry Maguire to score. This, combined with Andre Onana’s 97th-minute penalty save against Jordan Larsson, prevented any embarrassment for United. A draw would have been a disappointment considering the significant difference in resources between the two clubs.
Hojlund is proof of it. But as his former club, who had led against Galatasaray and Bayern Munich, came within a few inches of going ahead at Old Trafford, there were times when Hojlund had to stand and admire. In different ways, his younger brothers Oscar, a late substitute for Copenhagen, and Emil, who did not make the bench, were spectators. So was the older and more expensive sibling, limited to two touches in the first quarter of an hour, left stranded by United’s impotence.
Apart from Maguire’s winning goal, all of United’s offensive actions seemed to center around him, which could suggest that the other players were not performing well. While center-forwards are crucial, United seemed too dependent on one player whose name may have been unfamiliar just a year ago, possibly being mistaken for Haaland.
Norwegian player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had previously recommended United sign Hojlund for £4m, five years prior to his eventual signing for 18 times the amount. In the match against Hojlund, the forward displayed a sharpness in the final third, indicating that his teammates should pass him the ball more often.
Following a quiet initial 15 minutes, he struck a half-volley that went over the bar. He nearly set up Scott McTominay for a shot with a backheel pass. He passed to Eriksen who had a well-saved shot. When goalkeeper Kamil Grabara brought down an offside Marcus Rashford, he had received a pass from Hojlund. When Alejandro Garnacho came close to scoring, it was due to Hojlund leading a counterattack.
Elias Jelert was tasked with removing the ball from his designated area when Hojlund skillfully controlled Bruno Fernandes’ header with his chest. This demonstrated his cleverness and knack for creating opportunities out of seemingly nothing, which was necessary given the lack of quality passes he received.
Both wingers do not specialize in crossing the ball. Antony, as even those who have lived on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean for many years are aware, tends to cut inside and take shots with his left foot. Similarly, Rashford also aspires to score goals rather than provide assists. In the first half, Hojlund took on the role of creating opportunities for McTominay, who was playing as an awkward secondary No 10.
However, United’s footballing abilities were enhanced with Eriksen’s presence. He is known for his technical skills, while Hojlund’s physical abilities also contribute to his appeal. He possesses a wiry strength and is a quick runner with agility. He also has a strong determination that serves him well. Although he has the potential, there is worry that United has not had many successful signings in the past decade. It is worth noting that Hojlund’s fee is similar to Jadon Sancho’s, but the fact that the former winger is now exiled from the team serves as a reminder that even the best-laid plans at United can go awry.
The current sentiment at Old Trafford is that Hojlund has great potential, even more so than Randal Kolo Muani, who was also being considered for their summer striking options and ended up being more expensive for Paris Saint-Germain. However, Hojlund’s goal record has been relatively low with only three goals in 10 games for United.
He has been more successful in scoring for his current and initial teams in Europe. He did not score any goals in the Danish Superliga. He has also not scored in the Premier League, as he has been outscored by Diogo Dalot in domestic matches. However, he started off as one of the top scorers in the Champions League, thanks to a goal against Bayern and two goals against Galatasaray.
Although he struggled against Copenhagen, Hojlund continued to show that he is capable of playing at this level. However, United’s win was not convincing enough to prove that they will advance to the Champions League after the winter break.