Manchester United have been linked with Ajax starlet Mohammed Kudus off the back of his fantastic form at the Qatar World Cup for Ghana.
Reports indicate that Arsenal and Liverpool have kept a keen eye on the silky dribbler during the tournament, but the Red Devils have a clear advantage owing to the player’s connection with Erik ten Hag.
Kudus was quoted by Algemeen Dagblad in the build up to the Uruguay match as saying that he joined Ajax from Nordsjaelland in 2020, “Because the club is known for developing talent.
“I talked about that with trainer Erik ten Hag.
“In his style of play, creative and attacking, I saw myself. It was exactly in line with my personal qualities and how I wanted to develop.”
With Ten Hag now making his mark known at Old Trafford, a reunion with the 22-year-old could be on the cards sooner rather than later.
The United squad is noticeably heavy on right-footed players, with only Antony among the attackers and Fred among the midfielders favouring their left. Kudus’ ability to play in multiple roles could help to add balance in that regard.
A versatile player, the 22-year-old is equally comfortable playing positions in central midfield, out wide, or up front. He played in the first against Portugal, the second against South Korea, and started in the latter against Uruguay. If he could play at right back too, United would arguably complete their rebuild under Ten Hag by signing four of him.
Ghana came into this year’s competition as the lowest-ranked team according to FIFA, but Kudus helped to fire the Black Stars within touching distance of the knockout stages.
Coming into today’s crucial match against Uruguay, Kudus had won 11 duels and completed five dribbles, showing his dynamism across the pitch.
His two goals against South Korea were another demonstration of his flexibility as the 5’9” trickster rose to meet Jordan Ayew’s cross to pull his side ahead before being the most alert player in the penalty area to slot home the winner.
That goal put Ghana in a strong position in Group H going into the match against Uruguay, and Kudus was not done there.
Within the opening 20 minutes of Group H’s final game, Kudus started an attack by dribbling through the midfield before cleverly finding himself in acres of space in the penalty area, prompting Sergio Rochet to commit a clumsy foul. Unfortunately for the Black Stars, Andre Ayew’s penalty was tame and easily saved.
The momentum favoured Uruguay after that, with Giorgian De Arrascaeta scoring a point-blank header to put them ahead. Moments later, Uruguay doubled their lead with a volley from the same man.
But Kudus remained a threat by drifting into pockets of space intelligently. Regrettably, his teammates rarely found him, often launching the ball hopefully into the box despite the Ajax man often having eight square yards to himself just outside it.
Changes after the break saw Kudus playing in the number ten role, with Jordan and Andre Ayew replaced with Osman Bukari and Kamaldeen Sulemana to surround Ghana’s talisman with pace.
Uruguay responded by dropping deep to limit the threat in behind and protect their two-goal lead while slowing down the pace of the game to frustrate the Ghanaians.
In his position behind the striker, Kudus was often swarmed by Matias Vecino and Federico Valverde, and subsequently struggled to impact the match. When he did get away from his various markers, he remained a threat with his long-range shooting, although he clearly would have benefitted from more decisive movement from his teammates in and around the penalty area.
On one occasion he forced an excellent save from Rochet as Ghana pushed forward to keep their World Cup hopes alive. Surrounded by defenders, Kudus showed excellent technique to take the ball on the turn and keep his shot low and hard through a crowd of bodies.
Late in the game, news came through to the stadium that South Korea had pulled ahead against Portugal in the group’s other match. That meant that Uruguay needed another goal to qualify for the knockout stages in second place. Dropping deep and running down the clock was no longer an option, meaning a frantic finish to the match, with both sides desperate to score.
The spaces opened up and Kudus managed to see more of the ball in dangerous positions on the break. He threaded through Sulemana on a couple of occasions, but to no avail. He saw his own shot blocked via some dogged defending from Sebastien Coates before being substituted shortly before the final whistle put both teams out of the World Cup.
He came off the pitch having completed four dribbles, winning eight duels, putting in two tackles, and having a 100% accuracy for his long ball attempts(SofaScore). Having forced an excellent save from Rochet, hit the woodwork, and won a penalty for his team, Kudus can certainly hold his head high after his performance.
All in all, Kudus has shown, throughout the tournament, a level of composure and class on the ball that would be welcome at Old Trafford. A tireless worker and quality technician, it is small wonder that he sees Ten Hag’s style of football as a perfect fit for him. Kudus’ performances on so big of a stage after coming into the tournament in good form suggest that he could very well handle the pressure of following his former manager to Manchester.
He certainly has the confidence, saying last week of Brazil star Neymar, “He’s not better than me. He’s just a higher profile player, that’s all.”