loan deal | 

How Wout Weghorst can add new dimension to Manchester United attack

Giant Dutch striker is much more than just a target man

Wout Weghorst of Netherlands celebrates with team-mates after scoring the team's second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter-final against Argentina. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images© FIFA via Getty Images

James DuckerTelegraph.co.uk

Wout Weghorst may not have made a lasting impression among Burnley fans, but the club’s kit man will not forget him in a hurry.

Lee Martin became accustomed to having to load a heavy spin bike on to the team bus for away matches that the Netherlands striker would like to use as part of his pre-match warm-up routine.

Weghorst is nothing if not particular, which may chime with his compatriot, Erik ten Hag, should the Manchester United manager complete a shock loan deal for the 30-year-old journeyman, whose only previous experience of English football ended in relegation last May.

Barely a fortnight after Burnley’s fate was sealed on the final day of the Premier League season, Weghorst popped up to score a dramatic stoppage-time winner for the Netherlands in a 2-1 Nations League win over Wales in Cardiff.

But Burnley fans were not alone in wondering why Weghorst, with only two goals in 17 top-flight appearances for the club, had struggled to demonstrate such form in claret and blue.

The Wales defender, Connor Roberts, evidently thought much the same and, at the final whistle, made an angry beeline for his Burnley team-mate.

“Why didn’t you do that for Burnley?” Roberts snapped.

​Weghorst initially tried to brush him off before having a go back. “This isn’t about Burnley. Shut up!” he appeared to say. Before too long, Weghorst was on his way to Turkey to join Besiktas on loan.

With his 6ft 6in frame, the logical conclusion to draw when Burnley signed Weghorst from Wolfsburg for £12 million on deadline day last January was that this was a like-for-like replacement for Chris Wood, who had left for Newcastle.

In reality, Weghorst was very different to Wood and not an especially good fit for a team who, at least before the Vincent Kompany revolution, liked to kick it long and shun possession.

And, in that respect, Weghorst’s performances for his country may offer a better barometer for those United fans wondering what they might be getting should Besitkas bow to the Dutchman’s fervent wish to terminate his loan early so he can complete a “dream” move to Old Trafford.

Weghorst certainly drew the attention of a much wider audience when he came on as a late substitute to score twice for the Netherlands against Argentina at the World Cup last month and take their quarter-final into extra-time.

Argentina would prevail in a penalty shoot-out and eventually go on to win the tournament but those goals did Weghorst’s reputation no harm, not least the stoppage-time equaliser when he demonstrated a deft touch, turn and finish to coolly convert a clever free-kick routine.

Cristiano Ronaldo was never going to figure prominently in Ten Hag’s plans because he does not press but that is one component of Weghorst’s game that is thought to appeal to the United manager.

Weghorst prided himself on being one of the fittest players at Wolfsburg, regularly topping the statistics for distance covered, and even during his Burnley struggles his high-intensity running and work off the ball stood out. The Dutchman, for example, was fourth in the Premier League for pressures per 90 minutes last term, despite only joining in mid-season.

Whereas Burnley under Sean Dyche favoured a target man like Wood who would dominate aerially and run the channels, Weghorst preferred to drop between the lines, receive the ball and link the play.

It is a skill-set Ten Hag, who is preparing for tonight’s League Cup quarter-final against Charlton, may feel he can use to his advantage should Weghorst prove a successful short-term foil to speedy runners such as Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho and Antony and perhaps also offer Bruno Fernandes greater encouragement to run in behind.

Weghorst’s height can create a misleading impression. Despite his size, he often struggled in the air for Burnley, winning just over 40pc of his aerial duels.

If the purse strings were not so tight, United would not be going near Weghorst, who averaged a goal every other game for Wolfsburg and also now for Besiktas but, assuming Besiktas play ball, Ten Hag will hope he can make it work.

Meanwhile, Ten Hag will choose David de Gea or new signing Jack Butland for tonight’s game against Charlton.

Goalkeeper Butland joined on a six-month loan from Crystal Palace after Martin Dubravka, who played in the past two rounds, was recalled by Newcastle.

Midfielder Bruno Fernandes is suspended after he was carded against Aston Villa and Burnley in the competition so far.

Manchester United, who last won the competition in 2017, will be looking to extend their winning run in all competitions to eight games.


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