Manchester United might soon have their own Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez partnership

Manchester United could learn a lesson from Man City's approach last seasonManchester United could learn a lesson from Man City's approach last season
Manchester United could learn a lesson from Man City's approach last season | Getty Images
Man Utd are closing in on their first summer signing and it will give them another tactical option.

It does not seem like it will be long until Manchester United unveil their first signing of the summer transfer window.

They have agreed personal terms with Joshua Zirkzee of a proposed move to Old Trafford and even agreed to pay the sizeable agent fees that are understood to have halted AC Milan's move for the Dutch striker.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All that is left now is to undergo a medical, which could be held up by his involvement at the European Championship this week, and to decide on how they want to finance the deal: trigger his release clause and pay €40 million up front, or pay a larger fee, spread out over instalments.

United have made Zirkzee their top striker target as they look to sign a replacement for Anthony Martial and also because they want a player who can play backup to Rasmus Hojlund and relieve the pressure that faced him in his debut season.

He could give them another option as well. While the Dutch forward will predominantly replace Hojlund in matches, there will be instances when the two are paired together to provide greater firepower in attack. Erik ten Hag has not been blessed the opportunity to utilise a striker partnership often during his time at Old Trafford but next season he could take a leaf from Pep Guardiola's book, with how he used both Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland together last season.

Although they didn't always click coherently as a partnership with their link-up play, and often made City look disjointed, they so usually delivered the goods and tormented opposition defences with their movement and potency. A key reason why they did work was because of the abundance of chances City created, something that has not always been the case at United. For so much of last season, Hojlund fed off scraps in the forward line and often operated as a one-man army in attack.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Another reason for Alvarez and Haaland's reasonable success was simply down to the fact they had two goal scorers in their forward line, which made them more likely to finish chances that fell their way and also made it harder for defences to man-mark one of them out of the game, for fear of leaving the other free. Zirkzee's return of 12 goals in 37 appearances last season might not be the most eye-catching, but another reason why United are so keen on him is because what else he has to offer. The 23-year-old is much more comfortable dropping deep and linking-up play, he notched seven assists last season, which in turn could greatly increase the quality of service into Hojlund.

The Dutch youngster idolises traditional goal scorers in both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gabriel Batistuta but former boss Thiago Motta highlighted what else he has to offer with a comparison to Ronaldinho. It is easy to stereotype the 6ft 4in striker as your typical number nine, but in reality he is so much more. Zirkzee is not the bruiser who will break his nose to get on the end of crosses in the box and is much more comfortable dropping in as a false nine to bring others into play, while he also loves picking up the ball with his back to goal and taking on defenders.

So while he will not only offer something different to Hojlund for United in the forward line, there is also reason to believe they could flourish as a partnership, with Zirkzee willing to do all the dirty work that can allow his striker partner more opportunities to do what he does best himself.

United might not have their own Haaland yet, but they could have their own Man City attacking partnership, which is more functional.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.