But as manager Paul Heckingbottom prepares to unveil his second new signing of the summer transfer window, after Tommy Doyle travelled to the club’s training camp in Portugal earlier this week, a deep dive into Ahmedhodzic’s CV reveals a number of other reasons why United’s recruitment department first identified him as a potential acquisition before Heckingbottom decided to action their proposal.
Predominantly right-footed, the 23-year-old will bring extra power and presence to a defence already marshalled by the combative John Egan. Standing well over six feet tall, the former Nottingham Forest youngster utilises his physical attributes well and frequently overwhelmed opponents during a spell on loan with Bordeaux last season and of course for parent club Malmo. Strong in the air, the scouting reports Paul Mitchell and Jared Dublin compiled made reference to Ahmedhodzic’s aerial ability and habit of ‘sealing off’ forwards by positioning himself between them and the ball. That suggests the youngster is intelligent as well as imposing and reads the game well.
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Crucially, however, Ahmedhodzic also possesses pace. This is something United’s rearguard has lacked at times in recent months; a weakness Forest successfully exploited during both legs of their recent Championship play-off semi-final against Heckingbottom’s side, advancing on penalties before beating Huddersfield Town in the divisional showpiece at Wembley.
“It was disappointing that two of the goals they (Forest) scored were almost identical,” Heckingbottom lamented at the time, after watching Brennan Johnson twice latch onto quick balls ‘over the top’ before finishing past Wes Foderingham. “So that’s something we’ll have to improve on.”
United will seek to address that issue during their training sessions at the Cidade do Futebol near Lisbon, where they are preparing for Friday’s friendly against Casa Pia. But the agreement for Ahmedhodzic, who is expected to initially cost them around £3m, confirms coaching staff felt outside help was required to accelerate the process.
After being appointed in November, following United’s unsuccessful experiment with Slavisa Jokanovic, Heckingbottom quickly undid some of the tactical changes the Serb had implemented. Unveiling a system which bore a number of striking resemblances to the one employed by Jokanovic’s predecessor Chris Wilder, who led United from League One to a ninth placed finish in the Premier League before departing in acrimonious circumstances, Heckingbottom encouraged the two outside centre halves within his back three to get the ball forward quicker. Again, this is something Ahmedhodzic is adept at doing, albeit by passing through the lines rather than rampaging upfield in the manner of Chris Basham and, until being diagnosed with a serious knee injury, Jack O’Connell.
Having turned professional with Forest, before rejoining his hometown club Malmo, Ahmedhodzic is still far from the finished article.
But after Bordeaux managed to extricate themselves from an agreement to purchase after a financial crisis saw them relegated to the French third tier, United have clearly calculated that the fee it has taken to fend-off late interest from Blackburn Rovers represents not only good business, but also a shrewd investment in the future.