Erik ten Hag talks up Rasmus Hojlund’s ability to ‘perform under stress’

Erik ten Hag praised the character of Rasmus Hojlund after the 21-year-old scored twice in the first seven minutes to help Manchester United to a 2-1 Premier League win over Luton at Kenilworth Road.

After a slow beginning to his career at Old Trafford, the striker – signed from Atalanta for £72million – has now scored in six consecutive games to make it 13 goals in his first 30 outings for United, including seven in 20 in the league.

United made the perfect start against Rob Edwards’ side, taking the lead inside a minute when Amari’i Bell’s misjudged pass was latched onto by Hojlund, the Dane racing through and carrying the ball around goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski before rolling it into the empty goal.

And in no time the advantage was doubled, Hojlund again on target as he deflected Alejandro Garnacho’s effort from outside the box inside the near post with his chest.

Ten Hag’s side had chances to stretch their lead again after the break, most glaringly when Bruno Fernandes took the ball around Kaminski as the goalkeeper committed himself but saw his effort deflected away by a superb recovering block from Albert Sambi Lokonga.

On a day when United stretched their winning run in the league to four games to keep the pressure on Aston Villa and Tottenham in the race to qualify for the Champions League, Ten Hag picked out Hojlund for praise as he continues his adjustment to life in England.

“We are very happy with our recruitment, that we recruited the right character because he can perform under stress,” said Ten Hag.

“And when things go against him like in the first half of the season, he has the abilities to have a strong character, to be resilient, to be determined and score goals and that is what we saw when we scouted him.

Rasmus Hojlund continued his scoring form
Rasmus Hojlund continued his scoring form (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“Of course, he needed some support because it’s not so easy when you’re so young but, in general, he kept calm and you see his abilities.”

It took Hojlund until Boxing Day to net his first league goal for United, scoring the late winner in a 3-2 comeback victory against Villa at Old Trafford.

Previously his only goals had come in the Champions League as the team crashed out of Europe before Christmas in last place in a tame group.

“In the start he didn’t have so much luck,” said Ten Hag. “He scored some goals, for instance, the one against Brighton, his first game, and they disallowed it and no one still knows why.

“There are moments that are very important in a new club and a new league, especially for a striker to build some confidence. That was not given but you see he is a fighter, he keeps going and he has great abilities in front of the goal.

“There are many ranges, areas, where he can improve but he has scoring abilities, that is clear. But what we have seen since September is he is improving in many other areas like holding up the ball.”

Luton boss Edwards reflected on a game in which his side were shellshocked by conceding a goal after only 37 seconds.

“It wobbled us and rocked us a little bit,” he said. “1-0 turned to 2-0 after about six minutes and you’re a little bit fearing the worst thinking ‘OK, how are we going to respond to this?’

“But I’ve got to give the players a lot of credit. They showed an air of calmness and belief, commitment to the game plan, and dragged themselves on to a really good performance.”

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