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After finding form by scoring in six consecutive matches for Manchester United, it felt like Rasmus Hojlund's breakthrough was happening, and with it the Red Devils had found form to draw within five points of a Champions League spot. That will take a backseat as now Hojlund will miss United's match against Fulham with a muscular injury that could sideline him for two to three weeks overall giving Erik ten Hag quite a conundrum.

Despite showing what he could do in Champions League with five goals in only six matches, it took Hojlund 14 Premier League appearances to hit the back of the net for the first time in the league for United, but once he did his confidence was in full force and he was off to the races. United had a focal point to play through as attackers would look for runs in behind by the 21-year-old while Hojlund possessed the strength and balance to bring the ball down and ensure that something good happened with it. Since scoring his first goal on Dec. 26, no player has scored more goals than Hojlund's seven and the underlying numbers also grade out well in Hojlund's favor.

Not counting penalties, only Darwin Nunez (1.03) and Erling Haaland (0.96) have produced more expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes than Hojlund's 0.69. While Nunez's finishing woes have been well documented, he has found his groove for Liverpool while Mohamed Salah has missed time due to injury and Africa Cup of Nations duty. It remains to be seen if that will continue if he deputizes with Salah but it's clear that Nunez does have his finishing boots, they're just situational.  Additionally, three forwards under 24 making up the top three xG producers in the Premier League over that stretch shows that the league is in good hands for the future.

Getting back to Hojlund, the signs are there that this hot finishing is for real. That makes it even more important to not only take his time coming back from this injury because reaggravation could be more damaging than missing Champions League, but also that United will need to keep doing what they're doing and feed him the ball.

Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, and Alejandro Garnacho all look to Hojlund when they get the ball, waiting until he's in an optimal position. That's why, unlike other forwards in the league, he hasn't been a volume shooter. In the new year, Hojlund is only averaging 2.05 shots per 90 minutes but he's putting a whopping 80% of his shots on target. His xG and his shooting accuracy all tell the same story, Hojlund is getting into great positions and taking prime shots. 


Looking at the positioning of Hojlund's shots suggests he can keep doing more with less. As a 6'3" forward, he has no issues bringing the ball down in the box, taking all of his shots in the new year from inside the danger area. Keep doing that and if United keep finding him in the middle, and he'll score some goals.

Given all that, Hojlund being out doesn't bode well for Ten Hag and United's short-term chances of keeping their winning ways going. His most likely replacement, Rashford, has been more effective on the wing than through the middle. At this point, chasing Champions League is also more of a dream than an expectation for this squad. The Danish striker is looking like someone who United can build the squad around and as a new era begins under new ownership, keeping things on the right track for the next three years is more important than short-term success at Old Trafford.