RASMUS HOJLUND has kept his head in order to kickstart his Manchester United career.
And the sporting director of Hojjlund’s first club always believed he had the character to overcome his early struggles at Old Trafford.
Hojlund failed to score in his first 14 Premier League appearances but now has five in his last five games as he and United gather momentum.
Christian Mouroux, who has known the 21-year-old since he was a kid at Horsholm-Usserod Idraetsklub, knew he had the personality as well as the ability to cope with the expectations.
Mouroux, still HUI’s sporting director, said: “Rasmus has never been an arrogant person.
“But he has always been extremely confident, and more than that, extremely focused.
“If anyone can, I would say it is Rasmus who can cope with that pressure.
Hojlund is not the first strapping, self-assured Danish centre forward to arrive inwith big expectations.
Mouroux said: “A good comparison can be made to the other rising superstar we had in Nicklas Bendtner.
“They are both No 9s, both very physical and also have this twinkle in the eye. They are humorous and outgoing and a bit cheeky.
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“Bendtner was probably a more naturally-gifted footballer, but that perhaps made him take things more lightly and get influenced by everything that affects you from the outside when you become a superstar.
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“Rasmus is completely different. Although I’m sure he will probably buy a bigger car and has awatch, it will not blow out of proportion.
“He has the right mentality for it. He is so disciplined. He is very aware of what hard work does for you and it’s hard work that has brought him to where he is today.”
Hojlund’s discipline comes from dad Anders, a former semi-pro centre forward, and mum Kirsten Winther, an ex-100m sprinter.
The family home is still just around the corner from HUI and was adapted to help Hojlund and his younger twin brothersand Emil (now in FC Copenhagen’s under-19 team) reach their potential.
Mouroux said: “Rasmus’ father is a carpenter.
“When they renovated their house, he converted the basement into afield so they could play even when the was bad.
“Anders coached all three of his sons at HUI. But when those boys came home and had lost a game, or had not played well, the mother was just as tough on them, maybe sometimes even more, pushing them to have the right mentality.
“They’ve had it from very young, and from both sides.”
Hojlund’s commitment to self-improvement, rather than spectacular talent, was what made him stand out as a kid.
Mouroux said: “He played a year up and was always quite physically developed. An attacking midfielder, as I recall.
“But he wasn’t extremely fast, like he is now, and he wasn’t extraordinarily gifted compared to those he was playing with.
“I do remember watching him running round the field in a Manchester United shirt.
“But I saw him more often in the stadium training on his own.
“Standing out came later for him, thanks to the individual training he did, constantly being down there running through cones, shooting, his father standing there giving him balls again and again, and training with his brothers.”
HUI had a partnership with Brondby and Hojlund moved just before his 12th birthday.
But when he and his father felt he was not making enough progress, he went to FC Copenhagen.
There, Hojlund’s ability to be a powerhouse No 9 was unlocked and he made his first-team debut at 17.
Yet he was unable to establish himself as first-choice frontman. So in January 2022, the 18-year-old upped sticks toto join Sturm Graz.
SG sporting director Andreas Schicker and head coach Christian Ilzer were struck by how confidently Hojlund took the big move in his stride.
After an impressive first half-season, Hojlund started thecampaign in style. The second goal of his brace in a 2-1 win over champions Red Bull Salzburg in July 2022, a lightning-quick run that ended with an emphatic finish, was transformational.
Ilzer said: “It was probably the goal that opened all the doors of Europeanfor him.”
Weeks later, he was signed for just under £15m by Atalanta, whose boss Gian Piero Gasperini happily added to the “new Erling Haaland” hype.
Less than a year after that, United agreed an initial fee of £64m, plus £8m in add-ons, to make the 21-year-old by far the most expensive Danish player of all time.
Mouroux said: “When the number [fee] first came, I know he was surprised.
“But as soon as he had taken that in, he thought: ‘There must be a reason why someone wants to pay this for me.
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“‘Someone has believed in what I am able to do, now it’s just a matter of me doing what is expected of me and what I know I can do in order to fulfil that expectation.’”
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