Rasmus Hojlund was a lone bright spark on a night of chaos for Man United… the defeat by Galatasaray showed there’s still issues in midfield but signs of blossoming partnership with Marcus Rashford look promising
- Manchester United fell to a 3-2 defeat against Galatasaray on Tuesday night
- Striker Rasmus Hojlund managed to impress despite the disappointing result
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
The worst kept secret around Manchester United is that they have desperately struggled to score goals. After this one, perhaps we can add ‘can’t defend’ to the ever growing list of problems.
Anyone who has watched United this season, here or on the road, has seen it. The question Erik ten Hag and his coaching staff have been wrestling with is why.
They’ve got a £72million striker leading the line in Rasmus Hojlund; they’ve got a right wing department that cost in excess of £150m and Marcus Rashford, who scored 30 goals last season, on the left.
Rashford has been unable to reproduce that form this season, and on the right wing, the absence of Jadon Sancho and Antony has added to United’s issues.
But here, in a chaotic home defeat for United, Hojlund burst into life with his second and third goals for the club to provide at least one reason to be cheerful. Here, Mail Sport takes a closer look at United’s attacking cast against Galatasaray — and where it’s gone right, or more often wrong, so far this season.
Rasmus Hojlund managed to impress despite Man United’s disappointing loss on Tuesday
The Red Devils were beaten 3-2 by Galatasaray in their Champions League group stage game
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Twenty years old and leading the line for Manchester United… good luck!
Hojlund arrived here tasked with being the man to solve this goalscoring crisis. It was always going to be a huge ask.
On at Arsenal he looked to prove his strength and throw some weight around; against Brighton he saw a goal chalked off by VAR; at Burnley he struggled and in Munich he scored to give them life in the game. Hojlund was never prolific at Atalanta and is finding his feet.
What Hojlund is bringing, amid a period of time where United look utterly disjointed and ragged, is boundless energy and is running the channels to try and open up spaces for the likes of Rashford.
Here he got his reward and heeded the advice of Raphael Varane when the centre back called for efficiency.
Hojlund managed to scored a brace on the night but it wasn’t enough to earn even a point
The £72million signing seems to be proving his worth in front of goal for Man United
Sticking between the posts he got the right side of his marker, lunged forward and plunged in a header for his first Champions League goal for Man United.
Ten Hag threw both arms up, fists clenched, in celebration. He hasn’t done that anywhere near enough of late.
Hojlund wasn’t done either. He would score again and it was no surprise. Having had one chalked off against VAR he was not deterred. Shoulders back he puffed his chest out and surged away from the visiting defence, chipping Muslera for a quite fabulous second.
A breakout performance on Galatasaray’s night… but when the dust settles this was a major stride forward for the Dane.
Name-checked by his manager in Monday’s press conference, Rashford won’t have needed telling that he’s been below the level United need him to be at.
The England striker has had the second-most shots of anyone in the Premier League — behind only Manchester City’s Erling Haaland — but just six of the 28 have been on target.
Fans on the Metrolink tram on the way to the ground debated furiously what has been up with last season’s star man. Fatigue? Lack of understanding with Hojlund? Or has he simply struggled for form?
‘Marcus Rashford is a player that is capable of scoring goals in every game. When he comes in the right spots he will score,’ Ten Hag said calmly.
Here against Galatasaray he started on the left but was through the middle at one stage, then headed out to the right, where the first goal came from.
Marcus Rashford has not been hitting the levels expected of him at Man United this season
So often this season the frustration supporters have had is Rashford passing when he should shoot and shooting when he should pass, more often than not to Hojlund.
And so when Rashford picked his head up and put his cross on the money for Hojlund to head in for 1-0, it felt like a breakthrough for a partnership that has been waiting to catch fire.
‘I am honestly super excited about it,’ Rashford said of the Hojlund tandem recently.
‘I just want to understand his game and for him to understand my game as quickly as possible.’
One swallow doesn’t make a summer but the recipe for how the two can complement each other was laid out here.
However, the England international now looks to be striking a partnership with Hojlund (right)
RIGHT-WING REVOLVING DOOR
It most definitely hasn’t helped United’s attacking flow that the right wing position has been chopped and changed.
Against Burnley, and again last night against Galatasaray, it was Bruno Fernandes. Facundo Pellistri and Alejandro Garnacho are talented but still look too raw to be relied upon to start.
Sancho is showing no appetite to apologise to Ten Hag after their falling out so the £73m man is no use, while Antony has been out of action for a month and is only now able to be reintegrated.
What Fernandes does do so well in this role, and you can see why Ten Hag likes using him here in the big games, is that he is so fluid in his positioning.
For the opening goal Fernandes had done so well to open up space by dragging his marker inside, allowing Rashford to get a run clear before crossing for Hojlund.
Antony’s return to the starting XI, whether that’s Saturday or after the international break, should provide consistency and help fix their scoring woes.
Bruno Fernandes (right) started out wide before Antony (left) came on as a substitute
For all the finger pointing that can go on with the forwards, service to them has been suspect and that buck lands at the door of Mason Mount, Hannibal Mejbri and Fernandes.
Mount thrived in an attacking No 8 role in the Carabao Cup against Crystal Palace and had a hand in both of the first two goals.
Days later against the same opposition he looked a shell of the player that had run Palace ragged, operating in a deeper role alongside Casemiro. The biggest tweak Ten Hag needs to make now is finding a way to allow Mount and Fernandes to co-exist.
Hannibal, making his Champions League debut here, is an important cog that perhaps showed his importance by dropping to the bench for the weekend defeat.
His boundless running is crucial to the press and allows Mount and Fernandes to pick up pockets of space that drew Galatasaray out of their defensive mould.
Erik ten Hag seems to still be figuring out how to use Mason Mount (above) in United’s midfield
Where Mount’s goals can come from — and this is a key focus of his for the season, adding goals — is late runs into the box.
Just before half-time following a move down the left Mount pulled off the onrushing back into the six-yard box and when the ball broke from Rashford’s cross it came to him on his right foot. Muslera was a relieved man when it deflected wide.
Things are far from perfect. A second half collapse defensively will overshadow a breakout night for Hojlund. Can’t score goals consistently and can’t defend. Make that six defeats in 10 now.
Hojlund the bright spark, most definitely. But the light barely stays on for long when United defend how they do.
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
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