Manchester United won 3-2 against Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon and new signing Rasmus Hojlund is expected to be fit to face Arsenal next week.
Erik ten Hag has been without his £64 million striker in the opening three games of the Premier League season, with the Danish international nursing a small back problem after signing for his boyhood club.
Whilst Anthony Martial started the game against Forest, his involvement was minimal and there were numerous occasions where he just wasn’t where a striker needed to be. Hojlund coming into the frame provides United with the vocal point of the attack.
However, they need to create the chances for him.
In particular, we’ve seen that United wingers will often choose the inside route rather than a more traditional touchline run and cross. Youngster Facundo Pellistri is perhaps the only option that consistently offers that particular threat.
Hojlund will be attacking spaces inside the penalty box when his wingers are in such positions and they need to provide more of a mixture – we saw examples of the benefits of going on the outside this weekend.
United’s first goal ensured they remained in the game after a freak start to the game led to them being 2-0 down within four minutes. It all came from Rashford doing something differently.
The left winger got the ball in a wide position and initially looked like he might come inside and attempt to link up with one of his teammates. Whilst Martial has drifted from the last line, Christian Eriksen has taken up a position in between the two Forest centre-backs.
Instead, Rashford chopped back onto the outside of the defender – as he did later on in the game to win a penalty – and was able to get half a yard to provide a low cross into the danger area, one that Eriksen connected with to score.
This kind of cross is one that strikers like Hojlund thrive for. United do not enter these ‘cutback’ areas often enough but Rashford is one of the best around at creating separation from his man like the above example.
Antony, on the other flank, is regularly mocked for simply not using his right foot in all different situations, including when crossing. The Brazilian much prefers to cut inside to allow himself to shoot with his left foot or play an inswinging cross from the half-space.
Now that could work with Hojlund being a physical presence, yet, the Dane will almost certainly prefer the wide man to go on the outside more often, whether that is playing the ball on the under/overlap or making the run himself.
We did see a great example of the threat that the 23-year-old can provide if he takes this option on against Forest.
After a good spell of possession, the ball was at Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s feet and Antony made a smart underlapping run to receive in behind the opposition full-back.
Antony then initially cut back onto his left foot – perhaps he could’ve played the cross earlier on his right foot instead, but this also allowed him to unbalance the defender for a second time after moving back onto his right and firing a low cross to Bruno Fernandes, who made a run across the centre-back towards the front post. This run is something we can expect from Hojlund on a regular occasion. Whilst the snapshot went just wide of the post, it was a promising piece of play from Antony.
Ultimately, these situations are going to be key to getting the best out of Hojlund, who will be making the necessary moves inside the box to try and get on the end of the crosses or cutbacks.
Ten Hag’s wingers enjoy cutting in. They have shown that they can do it the other way and that way needs to become a regularity now.
”We are discussing…” Erik ten Hag reveals four Man United players who could get new contracts
Owen Hargreaves delivers 14-word verdict on Erik ten Hag after Man United’s loss vs Bournemouth
Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola embarrasses Erik ten Hag with simple Man United comment
5 things learned as Manchester United defeat Burnley 2-0 (EFL Cup)
Player ratings: Manchester United 2-0 Burnley
How Lisandro Martinez made Manchester United World Cup history
News3 days ago
Harry Maguire sends 12-word message to Man United fans as Sofyan Amrabat makes admission after Chelsea win
Match Coverage3 days ago
Scott McTominay reveals Erik ten Hag training change after player frustration rumours
Match Coverage3 days ago
Five things noticed: Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
News3 days ago
Paul Merson names four ‘outstanding’ Manchester United players after 2-1 win vs Chelsea