Manchester United have made an offer to sign Christian Eriksen, who is a free agent after an impressive half-year at Brentford.
Through spells at Ajax, Tottenham Hotspur, Inter and Brentford, Eriksen was one of the mostdynamic passers and creators in Europe, and if United are successful in acquiring the Danish midfielder, he would go some way to replacing the progressive pass that Paul Pogba brought to the team.
While Bruno Fernandes is an unorthodox playmaker with a “high risk, high reward” passing profile, Eriksen is a calmer, more creative player, capable of generating scoring opportunities for his teammates but still valuing the possession.
If he were to become a United player, Eriksen could operate from the left of a 4-2-3-1 system, one of Erik ten Hag’s preferred formations, with Fernandes operating as number 10. The presence of two attacking midfielders in a side at the same time, in theory, could allow United to keep up the attacking pressure for longer, helping to fill in for Cristiano Ronaldo (and Marcus Rashford, if he wished to play at centre-forward).
The unusual nature of the upcoming 2022-23 season will also likely fuel any interest United may have in Eriksen. Premier League clubs are scheduled to complete 16 matches before stopping for the World Cup break on November 14 and United will also have a series of Europa League and Carabao Cup matches to play before the club football take a break for this winter’s tournament in Qatar.
Attacking midfield is not an area of immediate need for United this summer, but getting a player as talented as Eriksen, who returned to top-level football after suffering cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020, share minutes with others could help. They better navigate a claustrophobic first half of the season.
Eriksen’s age and playing career also dovetail with previous business dealings Ten Hag authorized during his time in charge of Ajax. In 2019, he cited the “experience” that Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic brought to the generally youthful side of him. Ten Hag has already had a chance to see Eriksen’s current style of play up close, as the Dane spent some time in early January 2022 training with Ajax’s youth team.
Ten Hag could use Fernandes as United’s main attacking catalyst, and Eriksen could act as number 10 or help from the flanks. Eriksen’s arrival would raise further questions about the future of Donny van de Beek – an entirely different kind of number 10 who favors off-the-ball runs over line-breaking passes – but after a 2021-22 season in which United he struggled to score goals. , one can see the attraction of a short-term deal.
The 30-year-old is understandably not the constantly running attacking midfielder he was during his prime from 2015 to 2017 (on more than one occasion for Spurs, Eriksen would complete a game after running 13km), but he remains a hard-working player when out of possession and cleverly pressuring opponents to win the ball back.
Last season, only Kevin De Bruyne and Martin Odegaard created more Premier League chances than Eriksen after he made his Brentford debut in February.
Thomas Frank’s side won seven of Eriksen’s 11 Premier League games, including games against Chelsea and West Ham. He is a “raise the floor” attacking midfielder, able to improve flawed teams and push good ones to greatness.
Barcelona should have pushed to sign Eriksen instead of Philippe Coutinho in 2018 and in 2022 Manchester United are believed to be one of several suitors for his signature. In the player’s own words, there are “different offers and options” that his team is considering, and the Champions League “is not essential” for his future as a player.
The conversation that links him to Tottenham Hotspur, where he would play again with Antonio Conte, also makes a lot of sense.
Strangely for United, it would have made more sense for the club to try to buy the Danish playmaker in the summer of 2016 (perhaps instead of Henrikh Mkhitaryan), than it does today.
At a time when top-four rivals are preparing for the future, United appear relatively inactive and a move for Eriksen would be a good short- and medium-term solution to a problem that seemed mostly solved when Fernandes signed a new long contract. -Contract ends with the club in April. This summer represents a crucial opportunity to correct course at United.
The departures of Edinson Cavani, Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic, among others and all as free agents, have left an unbalanced and underperforming team in a vulnerable position.
Ten Hag will have aspirations of qualifying for the Champions League, but West Ham and Leicester City have more talented players in defensive midfield and Newcastle appear to be planning a pace position in the top half of the Premier League. The downward spiral that marked much of United’s 2021-22 season can be stopped this summer through clever player swapping (both innings and outings). United desperately need reinforcements and improvements to their defensive capabilities in midfield.
They likely need a striker to ease Ronaldo’s burden and if Jadon Sancho wants to play to his true potential on the right flank, then an attack-minded full-back should be on the shopping list. The club’s continued search for Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona is another promising transfer, but one that doesn’t quite solve the problem. The Ten Hag era began by targeting good players, but none of Ajax’s academy graduates fix United’s most worrying problems on the pitch.
“Eriksen to United” is a move in keeping with much of the club’s business since Sir Alex Ferguson retired – acquiring a player who would previously have solved a problem area for United and several seasons past his heyday.
Eriksen is a good player who would make several clubs in Europe better. Whether that club can be Manchester United is much more difficult to determine.
(Top photo: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)