Joe Hugill
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Who is Joe Hugill? Manchester United’s Next Centre Forward

Manchester United are a team that is known for their deadly strikers over the years, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Dwight Yorke, and Wayne Rooney. Could Joe Hugill become the next on this list? Only time will tell.

The 20-year-old striker recently signed a new deal with Manchester United until June 2026 and has joined Burton Albion on loan until the end of the season. Hugill has impressed in pre-season and first-team training, leading to four appearances on the bench in the Premier League and one in the FA Cup. After only a six-month loan at Altrincham last season, Burton have decided to sign the Durham-born forward to help progress up the table, but why?

Joe Hugill: Player Profile

Joe Hugill began his career at Sunderland, but after only five games for Sunderland Under 18s and only three games for Sunderland Under 23s, he departed for Manchester for a fee of £300,000. He was signed as part of Manchester United’s mass youth recruitment summer, where several players were brought in from England and Europe, including Willy Kambwala (FC Sochaux), Charlie McNeill (Manchester City), Logan Pye (Sunderland), Marc Jurado (Barcelona), Radek Vitek (Olomouc) and Isak Hansen-Aarøen (Tromsø). Of the seven, Hugill is one of the five to remain at the club but is yet to make his senior debut.

The new Burton centre forward stands at just over 6’1 and was a substitute in Manchester United’s FA Youth Cup win, impressing off the bench with his pressing and physical presence. Last season, Joe Hugill was one of three Manchester United players to dual register with Altrincham and the Red Devils’ Under 21s team, along with Sonny Aljofree and Maxi Oyedele. Due to a lack of other youth strikers at United, Hugill only played on seven occasions for Altrincham (466 minutes) and he scored one goal.

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Tactical Analysis

As a frequent watcher of the Manchester United Under 21s team, I have watched Hugill on many occasions, and it is clear to me that he is a ‘proper number 9’ he has all the tools that a striker needs and can be used in several different ways. He can play with his back to goal, he can link play, he can run the channels, and he is an aerial threat – if developed correctly, Joe Hugill could be a very good footballer.

Noam Emeran assisting Joe Hugill against Leeds United

This screenshot is taken from Manchester United’s pre-season fixture against Leeds United in Oslo the Red Devils came out as 2-0 winners despite playing a very inexperienced side. Emeran, who also scored in this game, plays a beautiful pass to Hugill through the midfield and defensive line. Originally, it appeared as if Hugill was offside and was too lazy to not get onside quick enough however, the replay shows him purposefully waiting behind Ayling but in front of the other defenders. This is a very intelligent attacking play and shows the tactical knowledge Joe Hugill possesses.

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As I said before, Joe Hugill can run the channels and outpace full-backs and centre-backs. He receives the ball just before the halfway line and knocks ball past the defender with his first touch, he keeps running the ball until this position. Hugill recognises that he is not in a good shooting position and he plays a pass through the two defenders to Shoretire on the edge of the box, but his control is poor. This highlights the versatility of his game.

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This screenshot shows another aspect of Hugill’s game, his superb movement. As the cross comes in, he peels off the defender and drifts into the only space he can, the winger recognises this and plays a good cross into Joe Hugill’s feet and he finishes the first time.

If utilised correctly, Hugill could become a serious threat up front for Burton Albion, this could earn him a position in the Manchester United squad or increase his market value. In the summer, he was linked with a return to Sunderland on a permanent transfer and impressing in League One will only attract more interest for the striker.

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