It is fair to say that Erik ten Hag’s penchant for bringing his former players to Manchester United hasn’t gone particularly smoothly during his Old Trafford tenure thus far.
The Dutchman’s first summer in charge saw him opt to reunite with both Lisandro Martinez and Antony, the South American duo having been part of the Ajax side that claimed title glory in both 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Despite issues with injury in the latter part of 2023, Martinez has arguably one of the club’s “best signings” of recent years – according to Patrice Evra – although the same, sadly, cannot be said for Antony, who has scored just eight goals and contributed only three assists in 66 games following his £86m arrival.
After also utilising his Dutch connections to acquire the likes of Tyrell Malacia and Wout Weghorst, the most recent summer window saw Ten Hag again seek out familiar faces in the form of Andre Onana and Sofyan Amrabat, the pair having played under the 53-year-old at Ajax and Utrecht, respectively.
Those two deals have gone largely the same way as Antony thus far, rather than Martinez, with Amrabat heading off to AFCON without anyone really noticing, after starting just seven Premier League games, while Onana produced a string of errors during the club’s Champions League run – namely away to both Bayern Munich and Galatasaray.
To think then that United could yet again back the manager in his desire to sign another of his former assets may have alarm bells ringing, although one current target does at least boast a strong record under Ten Hag’s watch.
Man Utd eyeing another Ajax star
As per a report from the Mirror last week, the Red Devils are believed to be interested in signing 21-year-old striker, Brian Brobbey from the Eredivisie outfit, with the club said to be ‘keeping tabs’ on the promising Dutchman.
The suggestion is that Ten Hag – who handed the forward his debut in Amsterdam – wants to sign a new marksman this month in order to provide competition to both Rasmus Hojlund and Anthony Martial, although the club only have the means to pull off a loan deal.
That could then scupper any approach for Brobbey, who won’t be allowed to depart on a temporary move, although if United can raise funds for a permanent approach, they would seemingly be able to snap up a player who turned them down back in the summer of 2022 – after returning to Ajax following a brief spell at RB Leipzig.
Brian Brobbey’s record under Ten Hag
The last time that Brobbey opted to leave the Johan Cruyff Arena didn’t exactly go to plan, as the 5 foot 11 marksman failed to score and provided only three assists in just 14 appearances during his time in Germany, having joined the Bundesliga side in 2021.
Man Utd in talks to sign their next Van Nistelrooy
Man United could sign another Dutch striker in January.
While he ultimately failed to get going during that solitary half-season at Leipzig, home comforts have been kind to the Amsterdam native, as his record for the Dutch giants now stands at an impressive 40 goals in just 101 games in all competitions.
Also previously prolific in the youth ranks – notably scoring 37 goals in 41 games for Ajax’s U19 side – Brobbey was handed the chance to impress at first-team level by Ten Hag in the 2020/21 season, going on to net six times in just 19 games.
Having also returned to work under the one-time Utrecht coach on loan for the second half of 2021/22, the in-demand talent then plundered a further seven goals in just 13 appearances, taking his overall tally under Ten Hag to 13 goals in just 32 games.
Brobbey’s record under Ten Hag
Minutes per goal
Stats via Transfermarkt.
Despite often finding himself behind the more experienced Sebastian Haller, the one-cap Netherlands international boasted an impressive scoring rate under the current United boss, bagging once every 67 minutes – while he has 13 goals in only 25 games this season.
Clearly a talent who fits smoothly into Ten Hag’s system, there may be a sense of optimism that the £49k-per-week ace could follow in the footsteps of Martinez, rather than Antony, by flourishing at the Theatre of Dreams, particularly as he possesses the tools to be a menacing Premier League striker.
Brian Brobbey’s style of play
Described as a “powerhouse” by U23 scout and journalist, Antonio Mango, Brobbey appears to have the attributes to be able to meet the physical challenge of leading the line in England’s top flight, having been dubbed “The Brobbeast” by talent scout Jacek Kulig.
His credentials to be a prolific Premier League number nine can also be seen by his likeness to one-time United man, Romelu Lukaku, with former Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann stating back in 2021:
“In regards to his physique and the way he plays, he is similar to Romelu Lukaku. And we would be happy if he can manage to become a player with the same qualities. But to paint a picture for the fans, you can definitely say that he is similar to Lukaku.”
That likeness can also be seen by their current displays, with both men regularly looking to get in behind an opposing backline, with the Roma star ranking in the top 6% among his European peers for progressive passes received at an average of 8.76 per 90, while young Brobbey averages 8.63 in that regard.
Of course, Lukaku isn’t too fondly remembered at Old Trafford due to his “woeful” finishing during his two-year spell at the club – as per journalist Samuel Luckhurst – although the towering Belgian is a proven goalscorer, even recording 42 goals in just 96 games for the Red Devils.
While the 30-year-old also underwhelmed following a £97.5m return to Chelsea in 2021 – scoring just eight league goals that season – at his best he certainly ran Premier League defences ragged, netting 121 times in 278 games in the competition.
If United could get their hands on that fit and firing version of Lukaku, in the form of his heir apparent, Brobbey, it could prove to be the perfect striking addition for a club that have scored the fourth fewest goals in the top-flight this season.