Erik ten Hag: Rasmus Hojlund’s injury need not throw Man Utd’s season off course

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Erik ten Hag insisted Rasmus Hojlund’s injury need not throw Manchester United’s season off course as the club’s failure to sign another striker in January once again came under the spotlight.

Hojlund will miss Saturday’s match against Fulham and the midweek FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest, and is also expected to be out for next Sunday’s derby against Manchester City with a muscle injury that could see him sidelined for up to three weeks and potentially miss five games.

It is a significant blow given Hojlund’s electric form of late – the 21-year-old Dane has scored seven goals in his last six appearances for United – and leaves Ten Hag short of options in attack, with Anthony Martial out until April following surgery on his groin.

But Ten Hag said Hojlund was not solely responsible for United’s recent uptick in goals.

“(Hojlund) was lately very important,” he said. “But main man? I don’t see it that way. Because I think especially (Alejandro) Garnacho is playing very strong in the last games…

“‘Rashy’ (Marcus Rashford) is capable. (He has only scored five but) he can score. Lately, in our last games the frontline is an absolute threat, they score. Is it Rasmus Hojlund only? No, it’s Garnacho, it’s also Rashford, it’s also Scott McTominay. Bruno (Fernandes) can score a goal.

“What gives me the confidence, in autumn the frontline wasn’t scoring, they were not even a threat. In this moment they are in very good form and a threat continually. I am quite confident that even when Rasmus Hojlund is not there, it will go on.

“We can line up a frontline which is really strong. I don’t think there is a frontline where the opponent thinks, ‘pfft, that is easy’. No, they will fear our frontline I am sure.”

Ten Hag has previously opened up on his desire to sign a striker last month, something United were unable to do due to concerns regarding the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.

But on Friday the manager was questioned about the decision to spend £60million on Mason Mount last summer despite the relative depth in midfield, rather than invest up front given that Martial has regularly struggled to stay fit for a full season.

“You are a football manager?” he replied.

“If it was that easy… I already said (about) the money. First of all, striker options are the most difficult. Especially on our level. We had two strikers.

“I get that for Martial, but he has done for us last season great things. He is also on high payment in this club. So when you bring another one in, you strike him out. So there are all arguments not to do it.

“Then there is Marcus Rashford, who can play very good from front position. So actually we had three strikers in our squad to fill in.”

Ten Hag said it was “naive” to suggest signing another striker would have been so straightforward.

“Strikers are not cheap, and when you have three strikers in your squad and you bring a number four in, that means the prospective for the others will get short,” he said.

“We thought we had options, but when it develops during the season, I wanted to bring in a striker in the winter, but it was not possible. And already we had our problems with FFP (Financial Fair Play) in the summer of course.”

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