What Man Utd fans can expect from Joshua Zirkzee

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese
  • Updated: 9 Jul 2024 06:17 CDT
  • 5 min read
Joshua Zirkzee, Man Utd, 2023/24

Manchester United are closing in on the signing of Joshua Zirkzee from Bologna for a fee of €40 million.

United have agreed to pay Bologna the €40m release clause in Zirkzee’s contract with the Dutch striker being handed a contract worth €6m a year until 2029.

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AC Milan - who previously had been expected to sign Zirkzee - have pulled out of the race for the 23-year-old.

READ MORE: Premier League summer transfers 2024: All the Done Deals

So what can Man Utd fans expect from Zirkzee?

Well, Zirkzee was one of the breakout stars of the 2023-24 Serie A season.

Although his goal contribution stats were far from outstanding - 12 goals and seven assists in Serie A - Zirkzee played a massive role in Bologna’s historic season as they qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history.

Along with Arsenal-bound defender Riccardo Calafiori, he was Bologna’s most important player. Without him, Bologna would not have qualified for the Champions League.

Zirkzee is a striker, a number 9 who was deployed as a lone attacker in Thiago Motta’s 4-2-3-1 formation at Bologna.

Standing at 6ft 4in, Zirkzee is a giant of a striker who is expert at holding up the ball and bringing others into play.

He often drops deep and is strong at protecting the ball with his back to play. He is also excellent technically, boasting quick feet and able to move out of tight spaces.

READ MORE: European Golden Shoe 2023/24: Who is Europe’s leading striker?

Joshua Zirkzee, the new Ibrahimovic?

Due to his blend of height, strength and technique, Zirkzee has been compared by some to Sweden legend and ex Man Utd striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Zirkzee has been compared to Ibrahimovic
© IMAGO - Zirkzee has been compared to Ibrahimovic

Zirkzee’s game is much more than just goals and assists. He is a reference point, he connects everyone together and he makes his teammates around him play much better. The widemen and midfielders feed off Zirkzee and the striker ensures that there is always an out-ball for his team.

He will likely occupy the same role for Man Utd that he did for Bologna, with Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho on the wings and Bruno Fernandes as the number 10 behind him.

Joshua Zirkzee to Man Utd
© IMAGO - Joshua Zirkzee to Man Utd

Expect all these players to maximise their attacking output thanks to Zirkzee.

Having said that, Zirkzee will need to improve his goal contribution numbers if he is to be a success at Man Utd.

Twelve goals in the Premier League will not be enough, so Zirkzee must score more for United.

His shooting is not always the cleanest while he will need to increase his activity in the box to ensure he is more of a goal threat.

Zirkzee’s performances in the big games was impressive this past season. He scored against Inter, Milan, Atalanta, Roma, Lazio, while delivering assists versus Inter (2), Juventus and Roma. So he is a player who tends to raise his performances against the biggest teams.

This will encourage Erik ten Hag when United are playing the likes of Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Another note of encouragement is that Zirkzee has already played for one of Europe’s super clubs as he was at Bayern from 2017 to 2021. He will understand what it is like to be at a big club.

Big things were expected of Zirkzee when he joined Bayern Munich as a 16-year-old in 2017. He scored a hattrick on his debut for Bayern Munich II, the reserve team of Bayern at the age of just 17.

Zirkzee was then integrated into the Bayern first team and managed a respectable four goals in nine Bundesliga games in the 2019-20 treble-winning season.

The Dutchman was tipped by some to be the eventual successor to Robert Lewandowski but then lost his way. He failed to progress the following season and was loaned out to Parma where he flopped.

A loan move to Anderlecht in 2021-22 saw him score 16 goals in the Belgian Pro League, earning him a permanent transfer back to Italy with Bologna in 2022-23.

But he again struggled badly in 2022-23, scoring just two goals all season. Some began to question whether he would ever fulfill his potential but under Thiago Motta - regarded as one of the best young coaches in Serie A and beyond - Zirkzee finally exploded in 2023-24.

He was one of the best strikers in all of Serie A this past season.

Zirkzee made his Netherlands debut at Euro 2024 in the quarter final win against Turkey.

He now is set to move to Man Utd with a deal all but done.

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