Man Utd could land the next Zlatan in “complete” £50m gem who’s “better than Haaland”

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Kane, is off scoring a bucket-load in Germany – already boasting 22 Bundesliga goals this season – Hojlund, meanwhile, has only one Premier League goal to show for his efforts.

Most big chances missed in 2023/24 – Premier League


Chances missed

League goals

Darwin Nunez



Erling Haaland



Ollie Watkins



Nicolas Jackson



Dominic Calvert-Lewin



Rasmus Hojlund



Alexander Isak



Stats via Premier League

There were signs of life on the continent as the youngster hit five during the Red Devils’ dismal Champions League run, yet it is domestically where he will be truly judged, having also failed to fire during the recent FA Cup victory over Wigan Athletic.

That 2-0 triumph over the League One outfit could have been all the more comfortable had Hojlund had his shooting boots on, notably striking the crossbar with a header from close range, while also prodding an effort agonisingly wide with the goal at his mercy.

If it wasn’t already evident prior to that performance, the Old Trafford outfit must now be aware that signing a new striker is a necessity, either this month or in the summer, particularly with the typically unreliable Anthony Martial also nowhere to be seen due to illness.

Latest on Man Utd’s hunt for a striker

The Athletic revealed last week that United are yet again seeking a low-cost, short-term fix in the winter window, having previously snapped up the likes of Wout Weghorst and Odion Ighalo in desperate late deals in years gone by.

The likes of Serhou Guirassy, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Mouting and Thomas Muller are all said to have been considered by Ten Hag and co, while contact had even been made regarding a move for Timo Werner, prior to the German’s recent loan switch to Tottenham Hotspur.

In truth, none of those options will have had supporters licking their lips, with both Choupo-Mouting and Muller well into their 30’s, while – as The Athletic noted – there are fears that Guirassy may merely be enjoying something of a freak season.

One name that may spark some more excitement, however, is Joshua Zirkzee, with recent reports in Italy indicating that the Dutchman is of interest to those at Old Trafford, amid his sparkling form for Bologna.

Valued at around €20m (£17m) according to CIES Football Observatory, the 22-year-old is said to have a €40m (£34m) release clause in his current deal, although further reports have indicated that the Italian outfit would be looking for closer to £50m, amid interest from Arsenal.

While the cash-strapped United may have to bide their time until the summer to land the 6 foot 4 striker, he would certainly be worth the wait.

Joshua Zirkzee could be the next Zlatan

Amid the woes of Hojlund, signing another striker from Serie A may have alarm bells wringing, yet all the indications point to a player who has the tools to be a real superstar in a United shirt.

Despite previously failing to flourish at Bayern, for whom he made just 17 first-team appearances, Zirkzee truly came to life during the 2021/22 campaign while on loan at Anderlecht, scoring 18 goals in all competitions under the watchful eye of then-boss, Vincent Kompany.

A move to Italy soon followed, and while two goals in 19 league games last term is nothing to write home about, a return of eight goals and four assists so far in 2023/24 has certainly caught the attention, as to have the plaudits that have flooded his way.

A towering, yet elegant marksman, the former Netherlands U21 international has even earned comparisons to a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with Torino boss Ivan Juric only recently stating:

“Those who are good (coaches), take these talents, cultivate them and manage to make them explode. In some moves, I see Ibra again. He is an atypical striker who also manages to score many goals.”

The now-retired Swede – who is also a physical frontman at 6 foot 5 – previously shone during his brief stint in Manchester, scoring 28 goals in all competitions in 2016/17, as Jose Mourinho’s side claimed the League Cup and Europa League.

What was also evident from that short spell was the veteran’s link-up play as he also contributed ten assists that season, with that also a trait that Zirkzee shares, notably providing 13 assists during his time in Belgium.

Not only could the Bologna gem prove to be United’s next Zlatan if a deal was to be agreed, but he could also rival a man who is ripping up the league on the other side of the city, having been favourably compared to Manchester City’s, Erling Haaland.

How Zirkzee compares to Haaland

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Zirkzee is nowhere close to hitting the type of goal returns that Haaland has enjoyed in his career to date, with the Norwegian already smashing in 71 goals in just 75 games during his time at the Etihad.

That said, the Dutchman’s all-round game could potentially be superior – that’s the view of reporter Suleyman Ozturk, at least, who has sensationally claimed that the former Bayern man is “better than Haaland at everything”:

“Now you may be dismayed because of this statement. But I will frame it. (Zirkzee) has vision, technique, strength, charisma, flair, footballing ability. He is therefore better than Haaland in almost everything.

“Imagine if Zirkzee had the energy and focus of Haaland. Then he would be the best striker in the world.”

On the eye test, Zirkzee certainly passes with flying colours, seemingly possessing an ability to glide across the park, with data analyst Ben Mattinson hailing him as “one of the most complete” strikers of the season, due to his array of strengths – “A creator, physical presence, ball-striking, dribbling & taking on defenders”.

That is reflected statistically, as the one-time Parma loanee ranks in the top 18% among his European peers for successful take-ons per 90, and in the top 22% for progressive passes per 90, rubberstamping his silky quality in possession.

Haaland, meanwhile, is less likely to impact proceedings in the build-up, as he ranks in just the bottom 24% and the bottom 22% for those same two metrics, respectively, instead acting as an undoubtedly clinical penalty box poacher.

It can be seen then in that regard that Zirkzee may have more strings to his bow than the 23-year-old, with the next step now to truly begin to flourish as a prolific presence in front of goal in his own right.

Such talents, of course, are unlikely to come cheap, but this Ibrahimovic heir may well be the man to ease the burden on Hojlund’s young shoulders.

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