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Erik ten Hag: I wanted Harry Kane, but Rasmus Højlund WILL be just as good at Manchester United



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Credit: YouTube / Sky Sports

Erik ten Hag has admitted that although he originally wanted to sign Harry Kane, he believes Rasmus Højlund will become just as good for Manchester United.

In the summer of 2023, Manchester United dipped into the transfer market to find a new striker, and back then, Tottenham‘s Harry Kane was Erik ten Hag‘s first choice for the position.

However, what followed was a summer of strange negotiations where Daniel Levy, Spurs’ chairman, refused to sell the England captain for anything less than £100 million to another Premier League side, which was far out of reach of United’s budget. Kane eventually signed for Bayern Munich for £80 million.

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Instead, United turned their heads to young Danish talent Rasmus Højlund, who had proven himself to be a deadly striker at Atalanta, paying £72 million for the then-20-year-old.

A lot has since been made comparing the two strikers, with Kane having scored 43 goals and provided 11 assists in his first 43 appearances for Bayern Munich, while Højlund, although he is the club’s top scorer this season with 14 goals, has had two goal droughts across domestic competitions.

“This club can only have outstanding players because the expectations are so high,” Ten Hag explained to Gary Neville and Sky Sports. “Manchester United is the biggest, or maybe second or third, biggest club in the world, the highest fanbase so expectations will always be there.

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“Everyone has an opinion about Manchester United and it can only be outstanding players.”

“That’s players who have all the skillset, that is the physical and especially the mental skillset they need to perform and contribute because we have to win every game. There’s an expectation around every game from us so you can only fulfil that expectation when you have those outstanding players.

“But in the last decade and in this period, we couldn’t always get the players we wanted. But then you have to build and you have to accept that you get talent in instead of players who already proved it in the past.

“We have had some choices made with talents like Rasmus Højlund. I can see a striker who already proved it, who we want to sign and we couldn’t get him. And then we went to Rasmus because he’s a talent.”

Neville then probed Ten Hag for specifics, asking if by saying “we couldn’t always get the players we wanted,” he specifically meant Kane – which Ten Hag admitted was true.

However, Ten Hag was also quick to point out that he believes Højlund will “get there” and become the striker that United initially wanted in Kane.

“Yes, and you know Harry Kane will get you 30 goals. I think Rasmus will get there, but he needs time. It’s not fair to assess him the same as Harry Kane. I would never compare two players because they are very different.

“But with Højlund, I think we had the biggest potential in the striker position last summer and we are very happy with him. But he also needs time to adapt, and we are very pleased he showed his assets in scoring goals.

“He had a very good period where he scored many games after he showed it, but before and after, he had some physical issues, which is normal for a young player coming up. But it has a negative impact on the team result and that’s what you have to accept.

“Then you go back to the fans and the opinion makers, and they don’t understand or they don’t want to understand this. It is how Man United gets judged, they only see the result, but we need time.

“You have to accept the process is going slower, and you can’t then expect to straight [away] compete for titles in the Champions League and Premier League.”