Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Joshua Zirkzee Scout Report: The perfect striker for Manchester United?

Manchester United have reportedly identified Bologna’s Joshua Zirkzee as a priority target as the transfer window opens.

The window is open and many Manchester United fans are keen to see how INEOS will approach their first summer window in charge of United’s sporting affairs. A centre-back, midfielder and centre-forward are United’s priorities, with the club reliant on departures if they want to strengthen any other positions.

There has been a lot of talk about what type of striker United would target this summer, but over the last few days, it’s become clear that Bologna’s Joshua Zirkzee is United’s priority for the no.9 position. 

Date of Birth: 22/05/2001 (23)
Position: Centre-Forward
Strong Foot: Right
Height: 1.93m (6ft 3in)

Who is Joshua Zirkzee?

Embed from Getty Images

Zirkzee is a 23-year-old centre-forward currently playing in Serie A for Bologna. In 2017, Zirkzee left the Netherlands and moved to Germany, where he joined Bayern Munich from Dutch giants Feyenoord. He worked his way through the ranks in Munich and made a total of 17 appearances for Bayern’s first team, scoring four times. He had a short loan spell at Italian outfit Parma before joining Anderlecht on loan for the 2021-22 season. During his season on loan in Belgium, Zirkzee’s talent started to show under the management of former Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany. He scored 18 goals and registered 10 assists in 47 games in that season.

Following his impressive season at Anderlecht, Bologna decided to invest around €8.5m to bring Zirkzee back to Italy. His first season was ordinary, but the 2023-24 season was the season where Zirkzee truly announced himself to the footballing world.

Zirkzee was a prominent figure in Thiago Motta’s team that finished fifth in the Serie A. Despite not initially being included in the Dutch squad for the European Championships, Zirkzee has now been called up following multiple injuries. Many argue however that he should’ve been included in the initial squad following a noteworthy season at Bologna.

With manager Thiago Motta already having left Bologna for Juventus, it is expected that Bologna will lose many key players this summer, one of which being Zirkzee. The Dutch international reportedly has a €40m (£34m) release clause in his contract at Bologna.

It seemed that Zirkzee was destined for a move to AC Milan, who informed Bologna that they are planning to trigger his release clause according to Fabrizio Romano. However, they are yet to find an agreement on personal terms and in the last few days, it’s become very clear that United are seriously considering a move for Zirkzee. Arsenal are also said to hold an interest in the forward, while some reports have claimed that Zirkzee could join his now former boss Motta in Turin.  


Embed from Getty Images

Zirkzee finished the season with 12 goals in all competitions for Bologna and while that may not sound especially impressive, he isn’t a typical, penalty-box centre-forward who’ll score 25 to 30 goals a season. He’s the type of centre-forward who will help the team play better.

One of his biggest strengths is how good he is at pulling the centre-backs out of position, whether that be through dropping deep centrally to offer a passing option in build-up or moving out wide to run the channels. By dragging the centre-backs out of position, Zirkzee creates space centrally in the last line for the wingers and the no.10. His tactical understanding of the game is outstanding. For example, if the spaces between the lines are too big, Zirkzee is good at seeing this and dropping deeper to try and connect the lines. Bologna also has a tendency to sometimes leave big spaces unoccupied, and Zirkzee is very good at seeing this and moving into those pockets of space.

Zirkzee is an outstanding technical footballer. His first touch is often immaculate, and he is also very good at playing intricate passes in tight areas — both in wide areas and crowded central areas. His hold-up play is also excellent and he’s generally very good at bringing others into play. He’s the type of centre-forward who will help bring out the best in others around him. In the 2023-24 Serie A season, he averaged 49.5  touches per 90, which is a lot for a centre-forward and shows how involved he is in Bologna’s general play. In addition to that, he averaged an impressive 2.81 progressive passes per 90 in the 2023-24 Serie A. Zirkzee’s dribbling ability is also quite good and that helps him a lot when he moves out wide to run the channels.

Embed from Getty Images

While Zirkzee isn’t a prolific goal-scorer, he is quite a good finisher. In the 2023-24 Serie A season, he scored 11 goals so far from 9.00 xG (expected goals) which shows if you give him chances, he will find the back of the net.

Out of possession, Zirkzee is also very good. In the 2023-24 Serie A season, he won possession back 103 times, and 30 times in the final third which shows he’s a decent high-presser. That’s obviously a very important trait in a centre-forward in an Erik ten Hag system as the Dutchman wants his team to press aggressively high up the pitch. 


Despite being 6’’3 tall, Zirkzee isn’t dominant aerially and it’s something he could improve on. However, considering United’s wingers aren’t necessarily focused on aerially bringing their focal point into play and are more focused on getting themselves into goal-scoring positions, Zirkzee’s lack of presence may not be a massive issue at United.

Where would he Zirkzee in at Manchester United?

Embed from Getty Images

As mentioned above, United’s wide players are keen goal-scorers. For a centre-forward like Rasmus Højlund, this is very frustrating. However, this wouldn’t be a massive issue with Zirkzee and he would actually help get the best out of United’s wide players.

Marcus Rashford isn’t nearly as bad creatively as some people make it seem, but he is definitely better when he’s allowed to focus on scoring goals. Rashford excels when he’s able to move into the left half-space and shoot from in and around the box. A prime example of this was his goal vs Arsenal at the Emirates this season. With Zirkzee pulling a centre-back out of position, this would create space for Rashford to exploit.

The dynamic in the team with Højlund compared to Zirkzee would be very different and they are certainly in no way a like-for-like replacement for each other. During pre-season, Erik ten Hag utilised Sancho as a deep-lying forward, similar to the role Zirkzee plays. This shows that Ten Hag does want to have that type of centre-forward in his squad, but it may be better to bring in someone who’s more similar to Højlund, so that not too much changes in terms of the system regardless of who plays as the no.9.

Another slight issue is that Zirkzee is still developing and so is Højlund. Many may argue that it would be better to bring in a more experienced centre-forward who could take some of the goal-scoring burden from Højlund and also someone who he could learn from.


Zirkzee is a complete centre-forward, and should he continue on this current trajectory, he has a future as one of Europe’s elite no.9s. Should United bring Zirkzee to Old Trafford, he would add something very different to Ten Hag’s squad. At £34m, he represents an excellent value for money signing.

Founder/Owner of UnitedConstantly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.