Wout Weghorst is officially a Manchester United player, arriving on loan from Championship side Burnley after a recent successful spell with Besiktas.
With combined fees of just €5.75million (£5.1m) paid to both Burnley and Besiktas, the former Wolfsburg forward has joined the Red Devils for the remainder of the 2022/23 campaign, and it appears to be a win-win deal for Erik ten Hag’s side.
But perhaps understandably some United fans may initially be underwhelmed with the signing.
While Chelsea have added the likes of Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid for the rest of the season and with other rivals such as Arsenal adding Gabriel Jesus to their ranks in the summer, the acquisition of Weghorst by comparison may lack the glitz and glamour that some United fans would have been hoping for this January.
That said, he could turn out to be a very shrewd signing who can give United a different route to goal. We delve into the data to explain more.
It’s official: Wout Weghorst is a Red! ✍️🔴#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 13, 2023
Who is Wout Weghorst?
Even though that sounds like quite a simple question; it’s one that comes with plenty of different answers depending on who you ask.
If you ask a FC Emmen, Heracles or AZ Alkmaar fan, they’re likely to say that Weghorst was one of the more promising young players to turn out for their side over the last 10-15 years.
If you ask a Wolfsburg fan, they’re likely to say that Weghorst is one of the best strikers the German side has had in recent memory.
But if you ask a Burnley fan, you’re likely to get a reply that includes words such as ‘useless’ and ‘underwhelming’.
So which is it? Well, overall, Weghorst has proven himself to be one of the best finishers in European football in recent times with a track record that has seen him net 171 goals in 407 competitive outings across six clubs in his career so far.
His best spell came in Germany with Wolfsburg, but in his time with Emmen, Heracles, AZ and Besiktas, he’s also held a very competitive goalscoring record on average.
But Weghorst isn’t just a goalscorer. The Dutchman helps to create attacking play, possessing the ability to both influence the game while pressing the backline or to drop deeper to link up play with his midfield.
He could be compared to a player like Sebastien Haller who enjoyed great success under Erik ten Hag at Ajax, though it must be said that Haller is the better player out of the two in terms of current ability.
What is Wout Weghorst’s playing style?
With the exception of his short stint with Burnley where he netted just twice across 20 Premier League outings, Weghorst is known across Europe for his elite finishing in front of goal.
That’s perhaps best highlighted by his return of 70 strikes in 144 matches in total for German side Wolfsburg. And even though his goalscoring form dropped off for Burnley when he moved to England, his recent loan spell in Turkey with Besiktas saw him hit nine goals in just 18 outings.
If we take his spell in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg — who are arguably the best side he’s played with during his career in terms of overall ability — he netted 59 times though 118 league appearances from an expected goals (xG) rate of 58.7 which emphasises that he takes his chances when they come to him.
That goal tally is one that could only be bettered by Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski during that time frame, while he also ranked second for most shots on target generated (141) behind Lewandowski and held a strong goal conversion rate of 20.42 percent.
What is fascinating as well when it comes to Weghorst is that in league competition, his last 69 goals have all come from inside the box. When you consider United’s firepower in terms of getting the ball into the box — mostly through Bruno Fernandes who’s created the third-most chances in the Premier League this season (44) — Weghorst could prove a great addition to Ten Hag’s forward group.
A really underrated aspect of Weghorst’s game is his pressing capabilities.
The high-pressing system is one that is now adopted by a number of the biggest sides in the Premier League, most notably Liverpool, and could be deployed by United boss Ten Hag during his time at Old Trafford.
If that’s the case, having a striker who is capable of pressing high up the field and putting pressure on the opposing team in their own defensive third is crucial.
During his time at Burnley, no player in the Premier League averaged more presses per 90 minutes than Weghorst at 48.7 — according to Opta — even more admirable given the fact that the Lancashire side somewhat famously enjoyed sitting in a set formation behind the ball during most of their time in the top-flight.
His four seasons spell in the Bundesliga also saw him win possession for his Wolfsburg side 72 times in the final third of the pitch, the joint-seventh most instances of any player.
Underrated all-round playmaking ability
What is also underrated is Weghorst’s capability in terms of link-up play.
Somewhat pigeon-holed as just a target man, the 30-year-old actually quite often drops off the front line in order to give his teammates an out ball through the opposition’s midfield to link up the play.
At Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, Weghorst created 135 chances for his teammates in 118 outings at an average of just over one per game.
For reference, that’s a very similar number to someone like Serge Gnabry, who during the same time frame between January 2018 and July 2020, recorded 141 chances created in 108 league appearances despite playing for a far superior Bayern Munich side.
Why is Wout Weghorst a good fit for Man United?
In simple terms, Weghorst offers Manchester United a different approach.
At 6-foot-6, Weghorst adds a physical edge to United’s frontline, the like of which would provide the Red Devils with a very different outlet.
Throughout his four-year spell in the Bundesliga, the Dutchman won 652 duels overall — the fourth-most of any player in the competition during that time. His aerial domination can be shown via his 389 successful aerial duels, a figure that could not be beaten by anyone across those four seasons in Germany’s top-flight.
But Weghorst isn’t just your bog standard target man and in fact, only 13 of his overall 70 goals for Wolfsburg came with his head. That highlights a player capable of transforming his game to fit what is needed by his club.
In a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 setup at United, Weghorst should receive plenty of quality service like he did prior at Wolfsburg rather than at Burnley. And with that, the goals should likely follow as they have so often during his career to date.
Lastly and importantly, Weghorst almost always tends to avoid picking up injuries which for a forward who likes to press the ball is impressive and could be key as Manchester United hunt a top four finish. In fact, during his time in the Bundesliga between January 2018 and July 2022, he featured in 118 matches, the third-most of any player in the competition.
Wout Weghorst stats: Games played, goals and assists
The below table documents Weghorst’s goal contributions and matches played at senior level during his career so far according to Transfermarkt.
Weghorst at the 2022 World Cup
Weghorst also made the headlines during the 2022 World Cup when he came off the bench to strike twice late on for the Netherlands against Argentina at the quarterfinal stage.
Coming onto the field in the 78th minute to replace Memphis Depay, Weghorst netted in the 83rd and 101st minutes to force the match into extra-time.
This brace further emphasises the Dutch forward’s clinical edge.
His first goal came from a deep cross from the right hand side. Weghorst broke away from his man through his movement and anticipation before glancing a header into the far corner past Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez.
His second again highlighted his attacking intelligence in particular. It came via a free kick which Teun Koopmeiners played short to the side of the wall. From there, Weghorst rolled the ball with his control, showed his strength to hold off the defender and completed the move with a calm left-footed finish.
He’d also go on to score during the ensuing penalty shootout which the Netherlands subsequently lost.
Those two strikes vs. Argentina were Weghorst’s only ones at the World Cup, though he didn’t play too many minutes for the Dutch. In fact, he averaged a goal per 31 minutes of action at the showpiece event while his overall tally of five goals in 598 minutes of international action, which as can be seen from his club career, is a steady return most teams would be happy with.