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Rasmus Hojlund: Gary Neville says Man Utd striker needs mentor but Jamie Carragher wants more from 21-year-old

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher disagree on where Man Utd go next with 21-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund after tough debut season at Old Trafford; Watch Man Utd vs Newcastle live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Wednesday, kick-off 8pm

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Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville disagree over Manchester United's Rasmus Hojlund as the Danish comes towards the end of his debut campaign at Old Trafford

Gary Neville thinks Man Utd should sign a new striker to support Rasmus Hojlund - but Jamie Carragher believes the 21-year-old lacks the ability to make his own chances and scare defenders.

Hojlund has endured an up-and-down first season at Old Trafford since a £64m move from Atalanta last summer. He netted five goals in Man Utd's otherwise miserable Champions League group stage campaign, but had to wait until December 26 to break his Premier League duck.

The Danish international has since gone on to score seven more times in the league from an xG of just 7.4. But without another senior striker and Man Utd having scored only 52 times all season - just twice more than 18th-placed Luton Town - Neville said the club has a pressing need for other options in their attack.

"I wish he was the second striker this season, I wish he was learning," he said on Monday Night Football. "Say he was working off Harry Kane or playing with him, I think you'd see a completely different player. He's 21 years old, he's a little bit scruffy in his work, but it's his first season in the Premier League.

"He reminds me a little bit of Nicolas Jackson and Darwin Nunez, they're projects. But he's the only striker at Man Utd. Forget [Anthony] Martial, he's not been there for years.

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"If I was playing at Man Utd and he came into the squad 15 or 20 years ago, I'd be thinking there's something to work with there - those attributes, that running power.

"The problem for Man Utd is every player who's signed to play up front has struggled. It's difficult for young players. I hope they can sign another striker in the summer to support him, to be a partner for him, to mentor him, so he can learn from them.

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"He's learning to be a centre-forward at Man Utd at the age of 21 - on his own."

Carragher said he had sympathy that Hojlund had been forced to lead the line during his rookie season in the Premier League.

But he questioned whether the forward had the raw quality to trouble defenders and make chances on his own - given he has managed just 36 shots in the top flight this season, despite featuring in 28 games.

He added: "I feel sorry for Hojlund a little bit, but I do look at it and ask what his trick is, what it is he does to scare defenders. I know he's young, and he's been brought in maybe a couple of years too soon.

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Watch Man Utd's latest defeat - where Hojlund managed just one shot

"The shots aren't enough. You can talk about the service, but when you look at Nunez's shots, you see him miss so many chances, but analytically that's seen as a strength.

"He doesn't get enough shots away. You can go back to them not creating, they're a little bit selfish, I get all that. But a striker can't always rely on service. He's got to do things himself.

"I can picture Nunez and Jackson doing something on their own, a bit mad and scruffy, but a burst of pace in behind. Knocking a defender out of the way. I don't really see that physicality from Hojlund."

Do Man Utd create enough for Hojlund?

Hojlund's shot rate of just 1.52 per 90 minutes ranks him last of the 46 Premier League strikers who have played 950 minutes or more - and is less than a third that of the league leader, Darwin Nunez, who has managed an average of 4.74.

"This is the hardest introduction for a young striker, into a struggling team, an interchanging team. This is a kid who doesn't know when the ball's going to come into the box. We've talked about the changing defence, but there's been a lot of changes in attack too.

"This is a kid who doesn't know when the ball's going to come into the box. I was watching Ollie Watkins before, and when he was making movements, he was in sync with the players around him. It was methodical. You watch Hojlund, they play extra passes in the wide area and there's a lack of understanding about when it's coming in.

"If you remember in the early days of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, when he was used to David Beckham's crosses and then Cristiano Ronaldo came, he's making movements but not getting the ball. He's not getting delivery into the box when he wants it.

"The inconsistency of the players around him is affecting him."

From Hojlund's last 14 Premier League starts, he has scored seven goals in the nine matches where a trio of Alejandro Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford behind him, but has found the back of the net just once in the five games where they have not.

"There's two things going on here - one is the injury he picks up in February, but if you look at when Man Utd had those three singing and dancing behind him, Garnacho is a far different player on the right than the left, and Rashford is on the other side.

"When those three were playing together, they hit form and looked like a unit. The goal he scores against Wolves, there's a predictability and a pattern to what Man Utd do. Garnacho starts the move on the right, it's his favourite side. Hojlund's in the middle, you know what's going to happen - and he can time his run, get across the near post and score.

"He's not had that very often this season. This is a kid who needs persevering with. Hojlund's not going to become an Aguero, a Haaland, one of the great strikers in Premier League history. But he can become an Ollie Watkins, he can get to 20 goals."

Ten Hag: Hojlund has had three injuries

Erik ten Hag has defended Hojlund's dip in form since sustaining an injury against Luton Town back in February.

The striker was absent for a month, and has only scored once in 10 appearances since his return to the side.

Speaking at his press conference on Tuesday ahead of the midweek encounter with Newcastle, Ten Hag said: "He has had three injuries this season but still scored 13 goals.

"I think it's a very good record for a young player. When we decided to go for him, we decided to buy a player for this season but also for the future. He needs time to develop. Before the winter, he struggled to get his first goal in the Premier League but he's a strong character. I'm quite confident he's close [to returning to his best form]."

"Last season, we had a goalscorer with 30 goals and we added an extra striker to our squad. From a financial point of view, anything more wasn't possible. Last season, we were third in the league and then brought in another striker so our policy was right."

Watch Man Utd vs Newcastle on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Wednesday, kick-off 8pm.

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