Erik ten Hag’s choices have always been central to his plans, and Wout Weghorst can deliver a power-packed punch for Manchester United.
Manchester United announced the signing of Wout Weghorst on a loan deal until the end of the season. And the Dutch striker will be available for the Red Devils after the Manchester Derby, which his new team won.
Weghorst has never been regarded as a frontline striker playing in Europe’s elite leagues. But his goalscoring prowess cannot be ignored. The 30-year-old scored a brace for the Netherlands in the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarter-final against Argentina as the Oranje threatened to end La Albiceleste’s run.
Most managers have opted to use a false nine and versatile forwards to keep their plans under wraps from opposition managers. Chelsea have used Kai Havertz in that role quite efficiently, while Pep Guardiola won the Premier League title last season without the service of a proper nine.
But Erik ten Hag is a believer in conventional methods and has chosen to lead his sides with old-school number nines. These include the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Sebastien Haller in the recent past.
Anthony Martial has failed to live up to the expectations in that central role since the 2022/23 season resumed. And the arrival of Weghorst will offer a different kind of dimension, which has not been displayed since the start of the season.
The tenacious Dutch striker is the perfect target man, which ten Hag has desired so far at Manchester United. At 6ft 6in the Netherlands international could provide the wingers with an alternative option as a focal point of the attack.
Weghorst’s link-up play is something the wingers can cherish as the Dutchman can invite his other teammates to join in the attack. He will find a soft underbelly in the backline more often than not and can be very dangerous if he provided with enough room inside the box.
His aerial threat is well-documented as 36 of his 172 goals have come through a header. Erik ten Hag’s team usually relies on wing play, and Weghorst’s presence could be a huge boost for their wingers and full-backs. Weghorst cannot really play on the flanks, as he is an out-and-out combative centre-forward. And the likes of Marcus Rashford and Antony can have more freedom.
The lanky striker can draw in opposition defenders, which will create spaces for the other attackers. Manchester United have blossomed whenever they have a proper striker to feed balls as past instances have shown someone like Edinson Cavani having an effect during his short spell under the stewardship of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The 30-year-old also likes to track back a lot and help in defending when his team is in transition mode. He registers pretty high press numbers and is an avid tackler, while he has recorded interceptions in excess of 90 per cent.
Since the 2020/21 season, the Dutch striker has converted more goals than both Rashford and Martial. So ten Hag will have expectations from Weghorst. He did not leave a good lasting memory during his Burnley stay. But with Manchester United’s superior squad depth, he could be pretty threatening.
Wout Weghorst bringing his kids to witness a Rashford masterclass pic.twitter.com/DNHnbOEu5B
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) January 14, 2023
The other thing that has impressed Manchester United’s recruitment team is his attitude and mentality. Weghorst often pushes his teammates to get the best possible output from them.
He also is not hesitant in getting involved in scuffles to protect his teammates as his recent incident with Lionel Messi during the World Cup suggested. Erik ten Hag wants combative players with a winning mentality in his team. And Weghorst’s combination with his Dutch manager could be a match made in heaven.
Intervening low blocks has been a matter of concern for the Red Devils. But with Weghorst now jumping into the ship, Manchester United will have an alternative to Anthony Martial, who will likely drop to the bench if he does not show improvements.
Weghorst is expected to make his first appearance against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. But it remains to be seen how ten Hag decides to use the player for the rest of the campaign. The Red Devils do not have the option to make the deal permanent. But if the former Wolfsburg striker impresses in his new role, Manchester United could shift their focus if the situation permits.