Wout Weghorst shows why he should be a Plan B rather than a mainstay
here were many reasons why Wout Weghorst was signed on loan from Burnley in January. The three key justifications were that Erik ten Hag knew all about his compatriot, there were limited options in the market and he would give absolutely everything to prove he is worthy of being a Manchester United player.
Weghorst is completely different to everyone else in United’s attacking arsenal. Unfortunately, his attributes are not always compatible with the style of play Ten Hag instilled prior to the World Cup. Against Real Betis Weghorst, like his colleagues, showed desire to make up for the 7-0 humiliation against Liverpool, with the Dutchman requiring a touch more forgiveness for tapping the “This Is Anfield” sign.
- Advertisement -
After plenty of toil, Weghorst got his reward by pummeling in a rebound from six yards. Scott McTominay shot and Weghorst was waiting when Claudio Bravo palmed it into his direction. It meant everything to the Dutchman, who slid on his knees and was emotional while being surrounded immediately by his teammates and eventually taking a moment of solitude to absorb his first goal at Old Trafford. He is relatively surprised to be a United player and is doing everything in his power to look as if he deserves this opportunity. It was only his second goal in 15 matches for United, an underwhelming record, so it was a glorious relief to double his tally.
The effort and energy was there in the early stages, although confidence had obviously taken a knock. Weghorst led the charge to close down the Betis defence at every opportunity, flanked by Marcus Rashford and Antony. When the England forward struck his 26th goal of the season and gave his now customary point to the head to celebrate his mental fortitude, many expected it would be the boost required to match their commitment with confidence.
It was, however, not a new dawn. The discipline that has been evident under Ten Hag was absent. David de Gea played multiple wayward passes when attempting to find teammates. The United goalkeeper has been reinvigorated under Ten Hag after being heavily scrutinised for his form in recent years but shipping seven goals at the weekend had affected him and the rest of the United squad.
- Advertisement -
With Weghorst leading the line, there is a static nature to United’s play because he does not have the pace to threaten in behind. Instead the ball is sent wide to produce crosses for him to attack. This is when he is in his element; he even chested one Fred cross into the net but it was ruled out for offside against the Brazilian. Generally crosses are not difficult to defend against, especially when the act is so predictable. Another perfect chance to open his Old Trafford account was scuffed into the ground, a sign of his inefficiency in front of goal.
It took a moment of brilliance from Antony for United to retake the lead at a point when they were struggling. They were battling to match Betis at times but sometimes, domestically and in Europe, that is the way to win matches. United cannot rely on outplaying teams twice a week over the course of a season. They have a spine of Lisandro Martínez, Casemiro and Weghorst for a reason at the moment: to get them through difficult times.
Almost immediately prior to Bruno Fernandes heading in United’s third, Weghorst was cautioned after an irate exchange with the referee in relation to a foul on Germán Pezzella. Weghorst was in the wrong, he knew that, and so did the official, but Ten Hag will not have minded a little outburst to collect his first caution. It riled the fans and his teammates.
Weghorst should be a plan B at best for Manchester United but Anthony Martial’s absence has made him a mainstay. His acceptable link-up play has resulted in Weghorst operating as a No 10 at times, a role he is highly unsuited for. He is far more comfortable as a central striker.
- Advertisement -
The loan deal is until the end of the season and any extension would be a surprise. He could feasibly walk away with League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League winners’ medals, which would be an impressive achievement for a man who had no honours when he joined the club after starting the campaign at Besiktas.
Weghorst might not be exactly what United need and, frankly, not what their fans want to see up top, but the striker is doing everything his manager is asking of him, helped by the fact the Dutchman knows he is lucky to have the opportunity and performing at the level that can be expected of him. Weghorst has the ability to be a cult hero in the making and he looks happy to embrace it.
Post credit: The Guardian
Video credit: beIN SPORTS Asia