Home » Why do Manchester United want Wout Weghorst?

Why do Manchester United want Wout Weghorst?

by Seth Dooley


Manchester United are in discussions with Burnley over potentially recruiting striker Wout Weghorst on loan for the remainder of the season.

Weghorst, 30, who is currently on a season-long loan at Turkish Super Lig club giants Beşiktaş, is extremely keen on the move. United, however, will have to negotiate a compensation package through Burnley for Beşiktaş to terminate the loan deal – which has a €10million option-to-buy clause included and which does not include a recall clause – ahead of schedule.

Although the specifications seem tricky, it is becoming increasingly likely that United will be successful in their desire to acquire Weghorst. So why has Erik ten Hag turned Richard Arnold’s attention towards the 6”6 striker?

He is a centre forward

The main thing Ten Hag has been seeking in this January transfer window is a recognised no. 9 – not a left forward who is “capable” of playing as a sole striker (see: Cody Gakpo); not a no. 10/second striker who “could do a job” up front (see: João Félix). No. Simply, an out-and-out centre forward.

Anthony Martial is the only recognised centre forward in the first team since Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract was mutually terminated six weeks ago, and the inconsistent Frenchman only transitioned into this position a few seasons ago.

Weghorst is strictly a striker, a goalscoring centre forward since the beginning of his career. And he has the impressive track record to show for it.

45 goals in 86 appearances for AZ Alkmaar; 70 goals in 144 appearances for Wolfsburg; 9 goals in 18 appearances for Beşiktaş. Weghorst has consistently met this 0.5 goals per game ratio (or thereabouts) throughout his career.

Admittedly, he struggled to replicate this form in the Premier League at Burnley, registering only two goals and three assists during the second part of last season. But, it must be considered that he was playing in a side who had been notorious for their dependence on the defensive tactics for several years.

His lack of shot-creation and goal-scoring rate in the Premier League cannot be conveniently turned into a moot point, however. But neither can the rest of his career because of a poor six month spell.

Consider the season prior to his foray at Turf Moor, his best ever goal scoring season to date. In 2020/21, Weghorst scored 20 goals in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg, scoring one goal for every five shots – he was a ruthless finisher.

The Netherlands international is renowned in Europe for his prowess from within the opposition’s box – a key attribute lacking from the current United side. A clinical, dominant, penalty box poacher – an out-and-out goal-getting no. 9.

All-round, all-guns blazing

As The Athletic noted in their examination of the potential deal, Weghorst is a ‘pressing monster’. This was highlighted by the fact he registered 57 pressures last season against Wolverhampton Wanderers – more than any other player in the Premier League last season.

This is undoubtedly one of the key reasons why Ten Hag has asked for Weghorst’s signature. The Dutchman’s Total Football ideals rely on players proactively working in unison to regain possession once lost.

Moreover, he has already shown the United squad what will happen if they do not press and run at least as much as the opposition: see the day after the 4-0 loss to Brentford.

Weghorst does not press hastily nor for the sake of it. He recovers the ball 3.86 times per 90 minutes, according to FBRef, making him one of the best strikers in this proactive aspect of the game.

Excellent at defending on the transition, his relentless pressures are astutely calculated to frequently pay off.

Dynamic displays

Weghorst is not only a sprinting-addicted target-man sent to stand up front.

Although commended for his goal-poaching abilities and dominance in the opposition’s penalty area, the 6”6 striker has various useful strings to his bow. It is this dynamism which has made Ten Hag eager to enlist Weghorst into United’s ranks.

The Athletic wrote how Weghorst ‘also epitomises the cliched, “good feet for a big man”.’ This can be proved statistically in different regards.

Over the last year, Weghorst has a 60% successful dribble rate per 90 minutes, placing him in the top 96th percentile. Although 6”6, he is noticeably deft and skillful with the ball at his feet when taking on a defender.

Furthemore, the striker does not exclusively work around the box. He is very capable of dropping deep to help move the ball between the thirds.

With 16.64 average short passes per 90, Weghorst likes to combine with teammates and to link up play. This should help Ten Hag in his dream of having a ‘fluid’ attack by having a clear option up front who is keen introduce other forwards into the game with quick, short exchanges and enjoys having the ball at his feet.

His average pass completion rate, on the other hand, sits at 65%, something upon which he would need to drastically improve if he is to be a mainstay in United’s starting XI.

A Character … A Dutch* character

Since Ten Hag has become United manager, there has been a sudden influx of ‘characters’ into the club – something Roy Keane had been lambasting the dressing room for lacking over recent years.

Whether it be the revitalisation of experienced winner Raphaël Varane; the newly crowned Butcher of Manchester Lisandro Martínez; Mitchell van der Gaag’s slick persona and polyglot abilities; the world-class introduction of ready-to-put-a-tackle-on-everybody-and-anybody-to-win-the-ball-back-Casemiro; the bubbly Treble Winning coach Steve McClaren; Rashford’s new drive to be the best; or the laconic nature of himself, Ten Hag has completed transformed the dressing room into a box full of characters.

Weghorst would slot nicely into this grouping.

The striker shot into public discourse after his tussle with Lionel Messi during the Netherlands’ quarter-final clash against Argentina (and after the incredible set-piece routine goal). His confidence was displayed when he refused to back down to arguably the greatest player of all time.

The Athletic claim that United (and most definitely Ten Hag) ‘are not put off by that. They want players with personality.’

United, as Keane has consistently pointed out, need personality to be a successful side. It probably helps that Weghorst is Dutch, too. Weghorst and Ten Hag’s hometowns are incredibly near to each other within the Overijssel province, leading them to have the same Dutch accent and dialect.

United’s transfer strategy since Ten Hag’s arrival has revolved around the Netherlands; Weghorst would become the fifth addition to the squad with such attachment.

Conclusion

With all considered, it is understandable why Ten Hag is looking to introduce Weghorst into United’s squad. What’s more is that fans now trust their manager’s opinion.

Ten Hag is not shying away from the fact that such a six month loan signing means in essence a ‘quick fix’ until United can afford to buy the ideal young centre forward in the summer under new ownership. Will United’s newest quick fix striking solution implement his best qualities at Old Trafford?
 




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