Ten Hag backs Hojlund to come good at Man United and insists striker needs time to develop

Red Devils take on Newcastle on Wednesday with £72m summer signing having managed only eight Premier League goals this season

Rasmus Hojlund has scored 14 goals across all competitions for Manchester United this season. Getty Images
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Erik ten Hag insists that Rasmus Hojlund needs to be given time to develop at Manchester United and is confident the young striker will prove to be a big success at the club.

The Red Devils take on Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night with their hopes of securing European football very much in the balance after a troubled end to the campaign that has seen them win just once in eight games.

Ten Hag's side are eighth in the Premier League, three points behind Newcastle who are sixth but with the Magpies enjoying a vastly superior goal difference.

Spearheading Man United's attack against the Magpies will likely once again be 21-year-old Hojlund, signed from Serie A side Atalanta last summer in a deal worth around £72 million.

The Dane struggled in front of goal at first, only registering his first Premier League goal against Aston Villa on December 26 after 1,026 minutes without finding the back of the net. Hojlund's tally currently stands at eight in 21 league games while he has notched 14 times across all competitions.

Not a disastrous return in any young striker's first season, especially in a team that has struggled for form and consistency. But reports have emerged throughout the season about teammates having doubts about Hojlund and his finishing ability.

The Manchester Evening News even suggested on Monday that some United players are reluctant to pass the ball to him and have even been looking for other options in the final third.

Finding the back of the net has a problem for the United team as a whole all season – they have managed just 52 goals which is the lowest of any team in the top 11 and 39 behind division top-scorers Manchester City.

But Ten Hag, whose own future at the club remains very much in doubt, has given his support to Hojlund and backed the club's decision to sign him. “He has had three injuries this season but still, as you say, he scored 14 goals this season. I think that's a very good record for a young player," said the Dutch coach.

“When we decided to go for him we buy a player for this season and the future. He has to develop, he has to progress, he needs time, sometimes it goes up and down. Before winter he struggled to get his first Premier League goal but he is a very strong character. I am more confident, he's close.

“Last season, we had a goalscorer with 30 [Marcus Rashford]. We add one extra striker to the squad and on financial resources more was not possible. We were quite confident when you are third [in the table] and reach two finals, when you add one striker the transfer policy is right.”

Meanwhile, it was confirmed on Tuesday that defender Raphael Varane will be leaving the club at the end of the season after after arriving in 2021, during the same summer as Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho.

Veteran attacker Ronaldo has long since left for Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr, while winger Sancho rejoined former club Borussia Dortmund on loan in January and has helped the German side to reach this season's Champions League final.

And now centre half Varane, 31, is heading for the exit when his contract runs out at the end of the current campaign. The French defender made 93 appearances for the club across three seasons at Old Trafford.

Ten Hag said Varane – who has not played since April 4 – will not be available for the Newcastle match but will hopefully be in contention for Sunday's league finale at Brighton and the FA Cup final clash with Manchester City on May 25.

“The first time I went to Old Trafford as a Man United player was insane, the atmosphere was amazing,” said Varane on social media.

“I fell in love with the club, with the fans. You have to play for Man United to understand what that represents.

“Despite the fact we had a difficult season, I'm very positive for the future. The new owners are coming with a clear plan and a great strategy.

“I'll see you at Old Trafford to say goodbye for the last game at home this season and it's going to be very emotional day for me, for sure.”

Fellow defender Lisandro Martinez is expected to available for Wednesday's match having made only 11 appearances this season due to injury. “I think he will return,” said Ten Hag. “He had some sessions and if everything is OK in training he will be involved.”

Opponents Newcastle have their own fitness concerns with strikers Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson both doubtful due to illness and injury, respectively.

Updated: May 14, 2024, 1:27 PM