Manchester United have finally signed a new striker. Rasmus Højlund has arrived from Atalanta for a whopping deal that could eventually be worth £72 million. Do you believe your former club has overpaid for the forward? How much of a gamble do you believe this signing will be?
“When you sign a footballer from abroad for that amount of money, then of course some people are going to believe it’s a gamble as many fans would have never seen the player in action before. However, when you look at the quality, the potential of the player and his age, then this signing makes sense. The right price is always something that’s tricky to get right, but there aren’t many available centre-forwards that are capable of playing for Manchester United.
“It is a gamble but he’s a clever player with the right mentality and profile, so I believe he will fit in really well with the team. Those qualities cost money, so regardless of whether you have to overpay for them or not, it’s the Premier League and it’s what it’s going to cost if Manchester United want to go to a different level. Højlund has the right profile to make a difference, that’s for sure.
“Harry Kane was the striker that I wanted Manchester United to sign most this summer as I believe he would have been capable of adapting quicker, but Højlund is still a great signing considering the massive potential he has.”
What should the realistic expectations for Rasmus Højlund be during his debut season for Manchester United?
“The manager is clever and he will be aware that Rasmus will need time to adapt and that’s the same for any player. The boy does have the quality to hit the ground running straight away and get twenty goals in this upcoming season. His impact is going to be important, alongside the impacts of Manchester United’s other signings of Mason Mount and André Onana. All three of them are going to need time to adapt, but I believe they’ve signed three terrific players. All three of these signings make sense for Erik ten Hag and there’s an improved balance for the squad. Anthony Martial is still at the club, so I wonder if there’s going to be a bit of rotation amongst the forward line next season. Let’s see what’s going to happen.”
André Onana has already made an impression for Manchester United during the club’s pre-season tour of the USA, most noticeably for screaming at Harry Maguire after the defender made an error that almost led to a goal. What were your thoughts on this incident? Do you believe André is going to be a leader in Manchester United’s dressing room? Also, what were your thoughts regarding Onana being caught off his line in United’s 3-1 victory over Lens on Saturday?
“I think Onana is a great signing for Manchester United. I know many fans and players would have been sad to see David de Gea leave, but we have to move on. Onana is certainly a player that’s capable of making this team even better and he will allow them to play a different kind of football. We will be able to play ten metres higher up the field because Onana is capable of coming out with the ball at his feet. However, the problems that come with that is that opposing sides will try and take advantage when he is off his line, so the team is going to have to find the right balance to ensure that they’re not too open when they’re high up the field. Onana potentially brings a weakness in that aspect, but that’s not a problem as Manchester United do need to play with a goalkeeper that possess Onana’s abilities offensively if they’re to catch up on the teams ahead of them.
“He’s a great, great signing and he is going to concede some goals, as all players in his position will, but that’s just the nature of being a goalkeeper. In regards to the incident where he shouted at Harry Maguire during pre-season, I’m glad that Manchester United has a goalkeeper that takes responsibility and looks to lead his defence and the rest of the team. The team needs players that can raise their voice and put pressure on their teammates. The charisma of the squad overall is increasing.”
After he was beaten from the halfway line against Lens on Saturday, Onana said the following to MUTV, “Like I always say, I am responsible for everything, especially when we concede goals. I’m the big man at the back so I take all the criticism, all the responsibility is on me.” Do you believe Manchester United need players with such charisma if they’re to win the biggest trophies on offer?
“Yes. You need players that are going to lead by example, that are capable of taking criticism and can be aware that there’s areas of their game that they can improve on. Onana showing that he can take responsibility for mistakes is a very good trait for any player to have and he’s already showing how strong he is mentally.
“Using Lisandro Martínez as an example, after his first few games for Manchester United many pundits and fans were immediately on his back, saying he was too small to be a centre-back and then by proving himself through his performances during the season, nobody was speaking about that anymore. A lot of people believed that Casemiro wasn’t worth the money that Manchester United paid for him, but that was wrong too. Once Onana shows everybody what he can do, nobody will be able to criticise him and I’m sure with his natural confidence, he’s going to gain the respect of everybody.
“I played with Edwin van der Sar and I believe he was the first goalkeeper that was truly confident in playing with the ball at his feet. Edwin used to play in midfield during our training sessions and overtime he changed the whole dynamic of our team. We were more in control of every game because of his ability to control the ball and he made Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić impossible to press against. I’m excited to see the same with Onana as he’s another version of Van der Sar.
In our last interview with you, you told us that you believe that the signing of Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat would improve the balance of the Manchester United squad. However, what we now want to ask you is whether you believe Sofyan is an upgrade on both Scott McTominay and Fred? Do you believe he would start for Manchester United?
“The squad needs to be big and all the players need to be capable of playing when called upon. Soyfan is experienced, he’s good on the ball and his energy level is unmatched. Manchester United have already lost Marcel Sabitzer and it’s looking likely that either McTominay or Fred will leave too. Both Fred and McTominay showed their class in certain performances last season, so if Manchester United are willing to let either of those players go this summer, then that highlights how good the squad is currently.
“I would be excited to see the signing of Amrabat as a player that possesses his qualities will be needed if Casemiro was ever to get injured or suspended.”
We want to ask you about two players that stood out for Manchester United on their pre-season tour of the USA. Firstly, 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo was excellent in his performances against Leeds United, Lyon and Arsenal, but unfortunately picked up an injury during his team’s 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid. However, how impressed have you been by Kobbie and do you believe that Erik ten Hag has made the right decision to opt against a loan move for the midfielder this summer?
“I have been impressed with Kobbie. At any big club, you need the youngsters to push the players in the first-team and Mainoo is a player that physically and technically can push the midfield to perform. He can be a surprise package as many other clubs won’t know an awful lot about him, so he’s capable of providing Manchester United with something different and this is very exciting. Erik ten Hag’s faith in young players is very beneficial for the club as a whole and you need players such as Kobbie and Alejandro Garnacho to provide excitement for the fanbase.
“Kobbie was very unlucky to get injured but I’m sure he will come back stronger. The Premier League is a different animal to pre-season fixtures, but I’m sure Kobbie is capable of making an impact during the season. All the players will improve because of the foundations that Erik ten Hag has laid out at the club.”
The second player we want to ask you about is Jadon Sancho. He operated in a false nine role for his side and was on the scoresheet against Arsenal in his side’s 2-0 victory. Are you encouraged by Jadon in this new role and do you believe this could be his permanent position going forward?
“The fact Jadon was able to perform well in a new role is another sign that he’s a quality player. What’s really impressed me about Jadon during pre-season has been his fitness and this upcoming season will be vital for him because he will want to get back in the England squad and he will be desperate to prove that he’s still a great player and as the team is continuing to improve, he will have no excuses if he fails to show how good he is.
“I believe Sancho will also benefit from the addition of Rasmus Højlund because Jadon’s a creator. However, Jadon has shown that he’s capable of doing a good job in the false nine role and he provides this team with a different option ahead of the new season. I do believe that Jadon overthinks things a bit too much sometimes, but I believe he just needs to be more confident in himself and his abilities and he needs to do everything he can to make sure he can get on the ball in the final third.”
Realistically, what should Manchester United’s targets in all competitions be this season?
“To be at the very top. The squad is now in a position to mount a challenge for all the honours available and last season they showed they could perform on a more consistent basis. It’s so difficult to predict what’s going to happen in the Premier League in particular, but I do believe that Manchester United will be able to mount a title challenge.”
Do you believe Manchester United’s squad is currently strong enough to win the Premier League title instead of just mounting a challenge? If not, then how many further additions are needed for this to become a reality?
“I believe their chances of winning the Premier League would have been greater if they had signed Harry Kane. They could definitely win the Premier League, but I believe that there’s currently a few teams who can win it as well. The club’s target this season has to be to win the Premier League but it’s going to be very tough to do as it’s such a difficult league to win. They need to start the new season feeling confident and have an element of arrogance about themselves, believing that they could win the title.”
Do you believe Manchester United are going to make a strong start to the new Premier League season?
“Yes, I have no doubt that they will make a strong start to the new Premier League season. The foundations are there and last season they showed that they’re a very strong squad. They made a few mistakes that punished them in a couple of games during the previous campaign, but I can’t see them making those mistakes this season. The opposition will respect them this campaign and I’m sure about this. The fans have every right to be excited by this team’s potential next season.”
Please could you tell us your preferred Manchester United starting XI for their first Premier League game of the season against Wolves?
“I believe they will win against Wolves. I say that with no disrespect to Wolves, but Manchester United are going to be one of the teams to beat this season. They need to start the season against Wolves with this mentality and I’m sure they will come out victorious.
“It’s difficult to say what the starting XI against Wolves will be, but it will be André Onana in goal, Raphaël Varane and Lisandro Martínez at centre-back and Luke Shaw at left-back. I really like Aaron Wan-Bissaka and I believe he will start over Diogo Dalot on Monday. Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes will be two of the midfielders in the starting line-up and Marcus Rashford and Antony will be two of the forward three. However, I’m unsure which two players will occupy the vacant positions in the forward line and midfield.”
Harry Maguire is heavily linked with a move to West Ham United, however do you believe that Harry would only be prepared to move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs after his spell as the captain of arguably the biggest club in world football, alongside Real Madrid?
“I believe Harry’s respected because he’s strong mentally and he’s respected at international level because of how well he’s done for England at tournaments. When you leave Manchester United, it’s not often that you move up, but if Harry does decide to leave then I’m sure he will improve any club that’s currently linked with him.
“I wish him the best because I’m very sad about how he’s been treated by the fans and everybody else. All fans expect the best from their club’s players but the treatment has been horrific, so I just wish the best for Harry and whichever club he decides to move to. He will go from strength to strength and I’m sure he will conduct himself well as a leader. I want to give him all the credit he deserves.”
With the new Premier League season kicking off on Friday night, we wanted to ask you for some predictions ahead of the new campaign. Firstly, which Premier League club do you believe has had the best transfer window so far this summer?
“I’ve been left impressed by some of the transfers I’ve seen by Premier League clubs so far this summer. I’m impressed by both Arsenal and Manchester City’s signings, but I wouldn’t say I’m hugely impressed, so in my opinion I believe Manchester United has had the strongest transfer window so far out of all the Premier League clubs. Chelsea have made so many signings that I’m getting lost, so I don’t really understand how and why they’ve done what they’ve done.”
And secondly, which transfer do you believe has been the Premier League’s signing of the summer so far?
“I really like the signing of André Onana, so I would say that’s been the best transfer for me. I’m really excited to see how he’s going to shut down all the potential criticism that comes his way. I love players that are always looking forward, so I’m very excited by this addition for Manchester United. Christopher Nkunku is a big signing for Chelsea, but I don’t believe he will provide them with all the answers they need.”
And finally, which clubs do you believe will finish in the top four this upcoming Premier League season? From one to four.
“I believe Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool will finish in the top four next season. In regards to what order I believe they will finish in then I’d say that the two Manchester club’s will make up the top two, with either club coming top, and then they will be followed by Arsenal and Liverpool.”