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Who is Wout Weghorst and why does he fit Ten Hag’s master plan?

Ten Hag, after a rocky start at the Red Devil’s, has made some huge signings, decisions, and changes already at Old Trafford, such as the signing of Casemiro, the resurgence of Rashford, and most recently, the ‘Ronaldo Rule’ which limits weekly wages at the club to £200,000.

These key decisions have earned Ten Hag a lot of plaudits and fans since he has been at the wheel in Manchester.

One of his most shocking decisions yet is the persuit of Wout Weghorst. The 30-year-old Dutchman stands at a massive 6’6” and represents Besiktas, on loan from his parent club Burnley, who play in the Championship.

Wout Weghorst has just came off the back off a good World Cup with the Netherlands and was one of the stars in the side along with Cody Gakpo, who transferred to Liverpool earlier this window.

The striker gained a lot of interest after his memorable performance against Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who went onto win the World Cup.

During the Netherlands tie in the quarter-finals, Weghorst was substituted onto the pitch in the 78th minute and scored a brace to send the tie to extra-time, including a 101st minute equaliser after a genius free kick routine.

Despite this, Manchester United fans have been left scratching their heads as to why the manager is interested in Weghorst. He’s only getting older, is a short-term move, and has represented Burnley in the Championship and Besiktas in Turkey in the last year. Surely that’s not worthy of pulling on a Manchester United shirt?

Not necessarily. Ten Hag has always favoured a big, traditional centre forward in his managerial career and he has seen a lot of success in big strikers that he has used in the past, very similar to Weghorst.

Sebastien Haller (6’2”), Kasper Dolberg (6’3”), Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar (6’2”) and Brian Brobbey (6’2”) are just some examples of target men with a ‘fox in the box’ presence who Ten Hag has worked with in the past.

Ten Hag has always seen success with a big physical presence up top in his teams, in fact the only times where he hasn’t used this has been when he used a double pivot of Dusan Tadic and Donny van de Beek in the Champions League in 2017, and only in that competition.

European fans saw how successful that duo was at Ajax and expected Donny van de Beek or Bruno Fernandes to slip into that role when Ten Hag was appointed at the Red Devil’s, but the Dutch mastermind seems to be sticking to what he knows best, target men.

The will be question marks as to whether Ten Hag’s tactics will work as well in the Premier League, as his Ajax hero Sebastien Haller had an unsuccessful stint at the Hammers after his huge £40m move to East London.

But what is Ten Hag looking for? History tells us that the player profile he is after is somebody who is strong, tall and has an aerial presence.

Looking deeper into this, his former strikers have had a variety of finishes, who can sniff out chances with the traits of a ‘fox in the box’ whilst having the skills to score in any way possible.

Weghorst will not be effective on the counter attack and could come across as ‘clunky’ when in transition, but for games when Manchester United are dominating possession, he is the perfect man to have in and around the penalty area.

Finally, Manchester United want a striker who presses. A huge debate during Cristiano Ronaldo’s second spell at Old Trafford was about his lack of pressing and how it affected the rest of the team.

This will not be a problem with Weghorst, who achieved more presses than any other player per 90 minutes in the Premier League in the 2021/22 campaign (48.7 presses per 90). This is even more impressive when playing for a defensive Burnley side who were resultantly relegated that year.

The pressing demon is ticking a lot of boxes for a ‘Ten Hag striker’ and the frontman has had good form in Turkey this year too, racking up 12 goal involvements in 16 appearances in the league.

With the lack of strikers in the market, Ten Hag wants to avoid another Ronaldo situation where he has a player on high wages, who doesn’t fit his system and can cause problems in the dressing room.

Rather than splashing a lot of cash on a striker who doesn’t fit his needs, Ten Hag wants to wait and try out a short-term option such as Weghorst to see how he can play with the rest of the team.

Athletico Madrid’s Joao Felix was also on Manchester United’s radar heading into the January transfer window, but he could provide a perfect example of spending too much money on someone who doesn’t complement your system.

Patience could be the key for Manchester United, who spent overbudget last summer, as if Weghorst works out, they could be in the market for somebody like Vlahovic, Osimhen, Kane or Toney in the summer. Ten Hag is really starting to implement his ideas on the Manchester United squad and times could be looking up for their fanbase.


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