Manchester United finally signed a long-term striker for their team this summer when they splashed £70 million on Rasmus Hojlund.
While he undoubtedly has sky-high potential, it would be unfair to put the weight of the world on his shoulders at just 20 years of age.
However, such has been United’s play in the first three games of the season, that is exactly the situation Hojlund finds himself in as the whole world anticipates his debut against Arsenal.
All this could have been avoided if United were a bit smarter in the transfer market, a statement that has become a running theme in the post-Sir Alex era.
Mehdi Taremi- The bargain who was missed
Fabrizio Romano recently reported that AC Milan have submitted a €15 million bid for Mehdi Taremi. He says the deadline day will be crucial.
With just one year left on his contract, it would be a surprise if some compromise wasn’t reached.
AC Milan bid for Mehdi Taremi has been submitted, as expected. Package worth €15m with favourable payment terms — up to FC Porto now 🔴⚫️🇮🇷 #ACMilan
Wednesday, crucial day. pic.twitter.com/YcxiIoYtWX
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 29, 2023
This is a deal that United should have been all over from the beginning.
It doesn’t even come out of the blue. United have been credited with an interest in him for a long time. However, in true Glazernomics fashion, they closed their shop after getting Hojlund, content with throwing their weight behind a 20-year-old prospect who has one season in top-five leagues.
Taremi, at 31, and coming off his best season in professional football, would have been ideal for this squad.
31 goals and 14 assists in 51 appearances across all competitions tell their own story, but he is not just a flash in the pan with a single breakout season.
FC Porto have been benefitting from his play for a long time. With 80 goals and 49 assists in 151 games for them, Taremi is a bonafide goalscorer at the top level.
Taremi’s suitability at United
The Iranian’s age might raise some red flags, but looking beyond the lens of FIFA and Football Manager games, it is clear that Taremi’s best years are not behind him.
For one, his game is not dependent on pace. He excels at bringing others into the game by holding the ball up, bringing others into play with short passes, and then arriving in the box to finish chances.
Wout Weghorst was ridiculed last season for his lack of, borderline absent goalscoring form. However, it can’t be denied that the United attack looked fluid with him up front.
That is because Erik ten Hag has preferred to have a focal point up front during his United tenure.
As the majority of United’s wide players are pacey and direct attackers, a focal point to bring them into the game is necessary, as none of United’s attackers are adept at receiving the ball at their feet with their back to goal.
That is why Harry Kane was targeted. Taremi, in over-simplified terms, is an unproven-at-elite-level Harry Kane.
His through balls beyond the last line of defence after dragging the centre-backs with him are a major reason why Porto’s widemen have flourished.
The likes of Alejandro Garnacho, Antony, and Marcus Rashford would have flourished playing with him.
Then comes the goalscoring part. It can be proven that Taremi is not simply going through a purple patch by looking at the numbers.
According to FBRef, Taremi has scored 76 goals from an xG of 74.3 during his time in Portugal.
That speaks of a striker who consistently gets into strong positions to score and makes the most of it with regularity. For a United squad where defensive midfielder Casemiro often finds himself as the furthest man forward simply because United’s attackers prefer to play in space away from the box, Taremi would have been transformative.
Hojlund needed him
20 starts in Serie A, 1,834 minutes played. That’s it. That’s the experience United’s “saviour” has of a European top-five league in his nascent career.
There’s trial by fire and then there’s whatever Hojlund is about to experience when he takes the field against Arsenal.
Despite his vast potential, that is the kind of pressure every young player could do without, because that’s not the good kind of pressure, the one that comes from expectation.
That is the pressure coming through brutal scrutiny where perspective is lost due to the sheer dependence on the player. That’s a recipe for disaster, ask Adnan Januzaj.
His every misplaced pass will be meme’d to death, a missed chance will be played on a loop and scrutinised endlessly, judgement will be passed on the basis of 15-minute cameos, and that would be just the tip of the iceberg.
Having seen Rashford labour through two games as a striker, it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that United’s whole season is contingent on Hojlund’s transfer being a success or a failure. That is unfair to the player.
What he needed was an experienced head alongside him, who has been there and done it all. At his age, Hojlund shouldn’t be the saviour, he should be the eccentric sidekick who would turn the occasional match and leave the fans salivating at his potential.
Taremi would have allowed him that freedom to develop away from the intense glare that follows United everywhere.
Therefore, just because of frugality, or some Glazer-induced FFP nonsense, not only have United missed out on a no-brainer signing, but they have also condemned their marquee acquisition to a sink-or-swim scenario at just 20 years old.
That’s a double jeopardy.