Transfer Talk: Weghorst primed to hit the heights at Old Trafford
Wout Weghorst has emerged as a surprise January transfer target for Manchester United.
Burnley striker Weghorst, 30, who is currently on loan at Besiktas, looks likely to be a short-term fix as Erik ten Hag aims to bolster his options up front for the second half of the campaign.
Ahead of their Carabao Cup quarter-final clash with Charlton tonight, we analyse why the Red Devils are keen on the towering Dutch forward.
Ease the load
Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure has left United short of options in attack, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial struggling to cope with a packed fixture schedule.
Martial, in particular, is yet to complete 90 minutes this term after struggling with a niggle in pre-season.
On the Frenchman's fitness, Ten Hag said: "He cannot manage the load. This is why we are looking for another striker.
"It is not about us not relying on him. His physical load is not, at this moment, so high that he can play, every third day, a game of 90 minutes. So I have to manage that together with him.
"We are on a thin line at the moment because the qualities of Anthony Martial are so important right now to our game.
"His movements, his ball security, the pressing, let's not forget that. We need that profile to be a threat."
The chosen one
It is widely reported that Weghorst has been identified as a player who can come into the fold and make a difference at Old Trafford.
That may come as a surprise to some, with the Netherlands international having struggled to make a regular impact at Burnley following his £12million move to Turf Moor only last January.
Shipped out on loan to Besiktas less than six months later after only netting twice in 20 games for the relegated Clarets, it seemed his time in England was over before it had even begun.
But the imposing centre forward has rediscovered his scoring touch while in Turkey, scoring eight goals in 16 league games as well as claiming four assists.
That is more akin to the form that saw him rise to prominence in the Bundesliga — where he boasted an impressive record of 70 goals in 144 games for Wolfsburg between 2018 and 2022.
He also netted two goals in the World Cup quarter-final during a lively cameo against eventual champions Argentina — the second, turning in a clever free-kick routine in stoppage time, proved to be one of the tournament's most dramatic moments.
Press to impress
His physical stature would make it easy to write Weghorst off as a one-dimensional target man but there is much more to his game than meets the eye.
Despite his domineering frame, the frontman often likes to drop deep and link between the lines — a trait which may explain why he struggled to replace Chris Wood at Turf Moor.
But that is also a quality that seems well suited to United’s set of attackers, with the 19-cap international potentially proving a handy focal point to allow the likes of speedy runners Rashford, Martial and Alejandro Garnacho to get in behind.
Ten Hag clearly wants his striker to press from the front and that is a part of the game which Weghorst prides himself on — he ranked in the top 10 for ball recoveries among Premier League strikers during his short stint in Lancashire.
Add that to his 3.4 aerial duels won per 90 minutes during the second half of the campaign and it is clear he can be a handful if used correctly.
Work to be done
While a temporary move for his compatriot seems a smart move on paper, there is undoubtedly a few hoops still to jump through before Ten Hag lands his man.
Weghorst is reportedly very keen on the move to the Theatre of Dreams but must convince Besiktas to cancel his loan deal from Burnley — with the Turkish outfit seeking compensation for the early termination of his switch.
After netting in their 2-1 win over Kasimpasa, Weghorst appeared to wave goodbye to the fans inside Vodafone Park but the club have been bullish over their star forward's future.
Boss Senol Gunes said after that match: "Weghorst is an important player for us. It is not enough to say goodbye to the audience. He also needs to talk to the club.
"I have heard of such a development, but it is not clear. I'll consider [him] leaving after I talk to both him and the club."
If those issues can be ironed out, there seems no reason why Weghorst will not prove a handy, if short-term, fix up front for United.