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In Focus: Weghorst is Wout to prove doubters wrong
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Cian Cheesbrough
Wout Weghorst has scored twice for Manchester United
Wout Weghorst has scored twice for Manchester United

It only took Wout Weghorst a little over six weeks to lift his first trophy as a Manchester United player — but that has not stopped plenty of criticism coming the striker’s way.

The towering Dutchman was brought in as a short-term solution to the Red Devils’ striking crisis, joining on loan from Burnley in January after cancelling his temporary spell with Besiktas.

And while the 30-year-old has been a useful addition to Erik ten Hag’s forward line as they chase more silverware, two goals in 16 appearances means the jury remains out.

Ahead of the second leg of their Europa League last-16 clash with Real Betis, we turn the spotlight on Weghorst’s start to life at Old Trafford.

A temporary fix

With Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and Anthony Martial’s injury problems persisting, Ten Hag chose Weghorst to be his focal point up front — where he is tasked with linking up play and implementing his high-pressing tactics.

The boss certainly feels his Dutch compatriot has brought those attributes, even if others are not yet convinced.

After a bright cameo in a 3-0 win over Leicester last month, Ten Hag said: "He brings a lot to the team. 

"From the moment he came, the attacking line is more dynamic and even better at pressing. We improved our game from the moment he came in."

The stats

Wout Weghorst has struggled to find the net regularly for Manchester United
Wout Weghorst has struggled to find the net regularly for Manchester United

A closer look at United’s performances before and after Weghorst arrived at the Theatre of Dreams certainly shows some aspects of Ten Hag's analysis to be correct.

The Red Devils are far more effective at pressing from the front when the Burnley loanee is in the side, having won possession in the attacking third 5.86 times per 90 minutes — up from 4.95 before his arrival.

They are also winning the ball significantly more in the centre of the field but Weghorst’s impact does not seem to have coincided with any upturn in attacking output.

Even if the frontman is not scoring himself, there is the notion that he is still elevating other attackers around him with his selfless work.

But Ten Hag’s men are scoring goals at almost the same regularity (1.57 per 90, 1.58 before) and taking a similar amount of shots (14.14 per 90, 14.05 before) with or without their No27 in the side.

United’s free-scoring form has slowed in recent weeks after failing to net in both the 7-0 humiliation by Liverpool and a 0-0 draw against rock-bottom Southampton.

As a result, their January loan signing is coming under scrutiny.

Duck broken

Some pressure will have undoubtedly been alleviated from Weghorst’s shoulders after he finally scored at Old Trafford against Betis last week.

It looked like another frustrating evening in front of goal for the Netherlands international after he saw an early header ruled out for offside before squandering a handful of chances.

But when he slammed home from close range following a rebound to make it 4-1, the relief from the centre forward and supporters inside the stadium was palpable.

Weghorst said after breaking his duck: "[It was a] great feeling and of course, I had to wait a long time for it — too long.

"[I'm] really happy and at the end I got my goal, so that was a great feeling with the stadium in front of the Stretford End, it was special."

The right attitude

Wout Weghorst has already helped Manchester United end their trophy drought
Wout Weghorst has already helped Manchester United end their trophy drought

That win over Betis showed that while Weghorst is far from the complete package, his mental resilience meant things eventually paid off. 

Having the right attitude has been one of the cornerstones of United’s success since Ten Hag took over and there are no doubts over that aspect of the ex-Wolfsburg marksman's game.

Ten Hag remarked: "As you see, he's often in the right position then he fails, but he keeps going. He shows great personality and character, not only in this game [against Betis].

"He keeps focused, he keeps working, he keeps putting himself in the right positions and finally he got his reward. He's physically capable of playing a lot of games. He's very fit and recovers well.

"I expect that he would play a lot but obviously, we have an injury with Anthony Martial. 

"He has intelligence in positions because he's a good anticipator. I tell him to link up there and he gets in front of the goal when crosses are coming in."

It would be a surprise to see Weghorst still a United player past the summer as links to high-profile names Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen continue.

But if the Oranje ace helps the Red Devils win more silverware this term, he will look back on his time at Old Trafford with more fond memories than bad ones.


Manchester UnitedEuropa LeaguePremier LeagueWouter Weghorst
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