Rio Ferdinand has expressed understanding toward Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund due to the striker’s challenging adjustment to the Premier League after his move from Atalanta.
Hojlund, despite showing promise with three Champions League goals, has yet to score in eight Premier League matches, including the recent narrow victory against Fulham.
The young striker’s disappointment was clear when he was substituted at the 79-minute mark during the match at Craven Cottage, a pattern that has become familiar in the past three league matches.
The underwhelming goal tally for the 20-year-old Dane at United, some fans argue, is not for lack of effort but rather the result of insufficient service from his teammates. Critics point out the wingers’ failure to deliver quality chances for Hojlund to capitalise on.
Drawing parallels to his own experiences at Manchester United, Ferdinand recalled a scenario involving former teammates Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ferdinand, on his show “Vibe with Five,” reflected on the importance of wingers delivering crosses for strikers. He recounted how van Nistelrooy once challenged Ronaldo’s reluctance to provide timely crosses, emphasising the need for predictable service to make effective runs.
“He needs to be there on the end of things. [Alejandro] Garnacho wants to cross the ball, but Antony doesn’t want to cross the ball. His second, third or fourth thought is to cross it; he wants to do something else first.
“That needs to change. Ruud van Nistelrooy, more or less, had Cristiano Ronaldo in tears almost one day because he was doing too much on the ball and wasn’t crossing it. Ruud said, ‘How can I make my runs when I don’t know when you’re going to cross the ball?’.
“That is how Hojlund must feel right now with the wide players that he is playing with. The difference is that Ruud was the main guy in our team, the main No.9 and the main goal-getter.”
Ferdinand highlighted that unlike van Nistelrooy, who was a dominant presence and a seasoned goal-scorer willing to confront teammates about the style of play, Hojlund hasn’t yet established himself to a point where he can demand changes. With a potential price tag of £72million after add-ons, the expectation is that Hojlund will need to adapt and find his rhythm within the team’s dynamic.
“He also had the experience and the gravitas to go pull up the wide players and say, ‘Listen, put the ball in the box’. He said a lot more than that, by the way!
“Hojlund isn’t that guy yet; his feet aren’t even under the table yet, so he is going to have to wait, really, unless he is the type of guy that can pull people up. He needs to.
Ferdinand sympathised with Hojlund’s visible frustration, attributing it to the lack of opportunities created for him, an issue Ferdinand believes the young player will have to endure until he finds his footing or asserts himself to influence the team’s attacking strategy.
“There have been too many times when I have seen him make good runs and the ball hasn’t come. That was why he was frustrated when he got brought off, as he was thinking ‘I have been making runs and nobody is passing me the ball’. He is working off minor scraps.”