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Why Netherlands star Joshua Zirkzee is exactly what Erik ten Hag needs as he closes in on £34million Man Utd transfer


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FANS of the Red Devils will be hoping Joshua Zirkzee is more a Ruud van Nistelrooy or Robin van Persie than a Memphis Depay.

Manchester United’s record in signing Dutch forwards has been mixed.

Man Utd are closing in on signing Joshua Zirkzee


Man Utd are closing in on signing Joshua ZirkzeeCredit: Rex

And there are questions over whether Zirkzee would be another gamble or maybe an upgrade on Dane Rasmus Hojlund, who ended up having a creditable debut season.

The £34million release clause United are set to pay Bologna for forward Zirkzee, 23, is far less than the initial £64m they spent on Hojlund last summer.

But if you factor in the reputed £12m-plus in commission for agent Kia Joorabchian, the investment is sizeable.

Zirkzee would arrive, like Hojlund, with just one promising but less-than-prolific season in a top-five European league — in both cases Serie A.

The livewire Dutchman scored 11 and provided five assists in 34 top-flight games as Bologna finished fourth and earned Champions League football for the first time in 60 years.

Hojlund, in his single season at Atalanta, had nine goals and four assists in 32 Serie A games.

Looking at it from the player’s perspective, Zirkzee could be forgiven for being a little wary of United, too.

Hojlund, 21, struggled in his early months at Old Trafford, failing to score a league goal until December 26 — but he was not helped by injury-hit United’s issues on and off the pitch.


Although Zirkzee played as the solo frontman in Thiago Motta’s formation at Bologna last season, he looks less of a traditional No 9 than Hojlund.

He is perfectly capable of running on to through balls but is more often to be found dropping in to link play and combining with team-mates.

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You could see the frustration and bewilderment on his face as balls were pumped over his head into channels, rather than to feet.

Initially that is often with his back to goal, but Zirkzee has excellent feet and agility for a man of his height — 6ft 3in — and physical strength.

The ex-Bayern Munich star can turn quickly, has plenty of tricks up his sleeve and will happily take players on one-on-one.

Zirkzee can see and pick a pass, too, with greater regularity and success than Hojlund.

He would give United chief Erik ten Hag different ways of playing, either as a replacement for Hojlund or partner.

But what United need most after finishing eighth last campaign — and netting 57 goals compared to title winners City’s 96 — is serious firepower.

Hojlund was joint-top scorer with Bruno Fernandes with ten league strikes and Ten Hag’s side finished with a negative goal difference.

In Zirkzee’s career to date, he has netted at a rate of slightly better than a goal every four games.

And earlier this year, he told Italian media outlet Corriere dello Sport: “I have to be more selfish in front of goal, it’s something I must work on.”

Van Nistelrooy, who is set to be appointed to Ten Hag’s backroom staff, could certainly help with that.

The legendary Dutch striker scored 150 goals in 219 matches for United and also hit 20 or more in the Premier League in four of his five seasons at Old Trafford.

Van Persie managed 26 in his first campaign with United in 2012-13 after leaving Arsenal.

That was Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season and the last time the club were crowned English champions.

And someone probably needs to be hitting those numbers if United are to be contenders again.

Flop Depay managed just two goals in 33 Prem matches having joined from PSV Eindhoven for £25m in 2015, before ending a miserable Old Trafford spell after 18 months.

Wout Weghorst — who has had more game time at Euro 2024 than Zirkzee — infamously failed to score in 17 league appearances for United after joining on loan from Burnley in January 2023.

United’s swift and possibly decisive move for Zirkzee suggests faith in his ability to help solve their attacking problems.

But so did the mega-money deal for Hojlund.

MAN UTD TRANSFER NEWS LIVE: All the latest deals and rumours from Old Trafford

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Why Netherlands star Joshua Zirkzee is exactly what Erik ten Hag needs as he closes in on £34million Man Utd transfer

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