Can I shock you? I think Manchester United signing Wout Weghorst on loan is a sensible transfer.
Is it a short-term signing? Yes. Is it a transfer to set pulses racing among Manchester United fans? F*** no. But is he roughly what a pretty good but striker-light Manchester United need right now? Pretty much, yes. It’s certainly a better idea than signing Joao Felix.
When our Ian Watson wrote that this was a ‘sloppy bodge job’, he was writing as a Manchester United fan unsurprisingly underwhelmed at the idea of signing a striker who had flopped at Burnley. But with a neutral-ish eye, with full knowledge of the inflated price of January targets, this is the kind of sloppy bodge job that could actually work.
Manchester United have won 20 of their 27 games this season. How much change do they actually need in January? Their only real, urgent problem is a lack of striker depth, as illustrated by mediocre winger Anthony Elanga’s less-than-mediocre attempt at playing there on Tuesday night.
Erik ten Hag has made it abundantly clear that he is not looking to replace Anthony Martial despite a relative lack of goals (“We are really on a thin line in this moment because his profile, the quality of Anthony Martial, is so important for our game. His movements, his ball security, he brings a lot for the team, the pressing – let’s not forget that”) but are looking to give themselves options to rest him.
This is not about who will be Manchester United’s striker for the next four years; this is about who will be Manchester United’s back-up striker for the next four months.
When those are the requirements, Weghorst could be an excellent choice. Strikers can make an impact in January if they are already in goalscoring form – I am old enough to remember the very limited Jon Stead successfully transferring his touch from Huddersfield to Blackburn to help them survive in the top flight almost 20 years ago – because confidence is high and the goalposts do not move. The primary objective of Weghorst’s job does not change whether he is playing for Besiktas or Manchester United. Nobody is expecting him to be Erling Haaland; Odion Ighalo is the lowest of low bars he needs to clear.
The excellent news is that he has been scoring goals for Besiktas – eight in 16 league games interrupted by two goals in the World Cup quarter-final against the eventual champions – which immediately puts him in a better position that the one he occupied when he joined Burnley a year ago. In hindsight, one goal in seven for a poor Wolfsburg side was exactly the right preparation for scoring two goals in 20 for a poor Burnley side. It was exactly the wrong kind of momentum.
If this were a £15m summer move then we could all queue up to laugh at Manchester United and their muddled transfer business, but this is a £2m winter loan move designed to plug a very specific hole. Weghorst is no chump – it’s only three seasons since he scored 20 Bundesliga goals – and Ten Hag has absolutely earned the right to champion a signing that initially does not compute for an elite club. We cannot celebrate how United now have an adult in charge and then treat him like a child when he makes a decision.
There is no guaranteed success attached to any transfer and certainly not to this particular transfer, but neither is there a great deal to lose. This is a very good Manchester United team that Weghorst could possibly make marginally better as they enter a crucial period and that has to be worth £2m.
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