What can Manchester United expect from signing Joshua Zirkzee?

Joshua Zirkzee is expected to sign for Manchester United after an incredible season with Bologna, so what can the Premier League side expect to see from the Dutchman?

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Joshua Zirkzee celebrates for Bologna. (@BolognaFC1909en)

Following an incredible season with Bologna in which the Dutchman really found his feet, Joshua Zirkzee appears set for a big move to Manchester United where the pressure will be immense and he could reach new heights.

It was reported by The Athletic’s David Ornstein on July 7 that the personal terms and agent’s commissions had already been agreed on, and all that is missing is the activation of Zirkzee‘s €40m release clause. Gianluca Di Marzio has also reported that Man Utd have told Bologna they will trigger the clause, so the deal seems a matter of time away now.

This comes as bad news for AC Milan who appeared to be in pole position to sign Zirkzee this summer, identifying him as their ideal replacement for Olivier Giroud. The agent’s commissions then got in the way and it seems the Rossoneri will now be looking elsewhere for their new striker.

With Man Utd fans desperate to see new signings come through the door, what can they expect from Zirkzee?

Why do Man Utd want Zirkzee?

Joshua Zirkzee celebrates a goal for Bologna. (@BolognaFC1909en)

It is no secret that Man Utd lacked attacking depth last season, with Rasmus Hojlund the only natural striker in the team. Marcus Rashford is better used on the left wing, and Anthony Martial was injured for almost the entire campaign. That put a lot of pressure on Hojlund in his first season since joining from Atalanta, and it would be nonsensical to go into another campaign with only the Dane as an option.

That is the simple answer as to why the Red Devils want Zirkzee: depth. He likely won’t just be Hojlund‘s backup, though. The Dutchman has had far too good a year in Serie A to not be taken seriously. Despite often not looking like a conventional striker, Zirkzee scored 11 Serie A goals and also got five assists in 2023/24. He missed around seven games through injury.

One of the other features of his game that likely appeals to Man Utd is that he is flexible. Zirkzee could play behind Hojlund if needed, and his tendency to drift wide suggests he could be of use on either wing. Erik ten Hag‘s side played 60 matches last season, and 70 the season before. They need players who can operate in a number of roles and Zirkzee should fit the bill.

When you consider his form, confidence, flexibility and age, signing Zirkzee for €40m makes a huge amount of sense.

Zirkzee’s style of play

It feels very rare in modern football for a player, particularly attackers, to be tasked with just one role. Strikers need to score goals, but being effective whilst dropping deeper or drifting wide makes you very attractive to a lot of coaches, especially with the rapidly expanding calendar.

Zirkzee is far from a conventional centre-forward and you’ll rarely see him on the shoulder of the last defender. He frequently drops deep to receive the ball and he can do this because his touch is sensational, and he has a good eye for a pass. Given Man Utd have lots of pacey players in the squad, it could feel at times like having another No.10 in the team who is releasing the wingers through on goal. If it is as simple as Hojlund or Zirkzee to start in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the team will surely play differently depending on which forward is starting.

The former Bayern Munich man can accelerate very quickly, but his top speed is far from his greatest attribute. What will serve him well in the Premier League is his physicality. Standing at 1.93m tall and with broad shoulders, Zirkzee can handle himself. At the same time, he has a remarkable centre of gravity that allows him to glide past players with the ball.

Zirkzee is a great finisher but there is still room for improvement there. Luckily for him, former Man Utd and Netherlands striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has returned as Ten Hag‘s assistant coach. Zirkzee would be wise to learn from someone who scored a staggering 150 goals in 2019 matches under Sir Alex Ferguson.