Manchester United confirmed Christian Eriksen’s arrival a little while back. The Danish midfielder signs on a free transfer in a three-year deal. The move adds another chapter to his remarkable comeback after suffering a cardiac arrest during last summer’s Euro Cup. Making his top-flight return with Brentford six months ago- impressing in his 11 appearances- Eriksen will add polish to United’s often stale midfield. Once of Tottenham, the Dane chose the tricky terrain of Old Trafford, wooed by Erik Ten Hag’s Ajax connections.
Speaking to the club’s official website, the Dane was effusive in his praise for both club and coach:
“Manchester United is a special club, and I cannot wait to get started. I have had the privilege of playing at Old Trafford many times but to do it in the red shirt of United will be an amazing feeling,” quotes ESPN.
“I have seen Erik’s work at Ajax and know the level of detail and preparation that he and his staff put into every day. It is clear that he is a fantastic coach. Having spoken with him and learned more about his vision and the way he wants the team to play, I am even more excited for the future,” gushed the ex-Inter man.
“I still have major ambitions in the game, there is a huge amount that I know I can achieve, and this is the perfect place to continue my journey,” concluded United’s latest acquisition.
By all intents and purposes, Eriksen’s transfer makes good footballing sense. With Fred and McTominay working the midfield, the Red Devils lack creativity in the middle third. While Fred’s immense ball-winning capabilities and tendency to play quick passes suit a team on the press, the Brazilian (and his Scottish partner) are awful when afforded time on the ball. (The two share more faults, but let’s focus on the ones Eriksen can address).
Against opposition who prefer to defend deep, United, in recent seasons, have often lacked ideas (and even ability) to pick their way through the barn door. But Eriksen is practised in precisely this skill. If we comb through his eleven outings with the Bees, his presence brought a tactical shift in their play. While he was in the wilderness, the newly promoted side lined up in a typical 3-5-2. Playing direct, Thomas Frank tasked his side to find Ivan Toney’s deceptively strong frame with the fewest swings of the boot. Toney- their most potent forward also has the know-how to hold up play- would drop into what is the ‘Harry Kane zone’, looking to either feed a turbo-charged Mbeumo or bring his midfielders into play. While the South London side was a dangerous counter-attacking side, they would struggle against massed defences.
Eriksen’s arrival immediately made them a more varied unit. The shift to 4-5-1 was the critical first step. A roving presence, the diminutive Dane would often drop deeper in search of the ball, moving play through controlled, well-measured passes instead of long punts. It also allowed Brentford to adjust their forward play to suit their attacker’s strengths. Toney became a box threat while the misfiring Mbeumo found himself in the preferred right-wing role. Capable of manoeuvring opponents with his passing ability and conjuring line-breaking passes, Brentford attackers thrived under Eriksen’s supply. During his brief stay with the club, only Martin Odegaard (38) and Kevin de Bruyne (42) created more chances than Eriksen’s 30.
Also Read: Why Manchester United want Christian Eriksen
The Dane adds similar depth to United’s midfield as well. Ten Hag can fit him in numerous roles, depending on the system. In a 4-3-3, the Dutchman can position Eriksen as a ball progressing midfielder, as a no.10 in a 4-2-3-1 or as a wide-attacker in a front four (Tottenham fans will remember). But irrespective of the position, his task is to progress the ball. In effect: find space, receive the ball, break lines and create chances.