WHAT was once expected to be rebuild might now be a restoration. While Ralf Rangnick suggested as many as 10 new signings could arrive at Manchester United this summer, recent reports claim new manager Erik Ten Hag will largely have to remould the unbalanced squad he inherited.
Nonetheless, additions will be required in a number of key areas and Christian Eriksen is believed to be on the Old Trafford club’s radar. As a 30-year-old free agent who spent the second half of last season at Brentford, the Dane could be seen as an underwhelming signing, but he would offer something Manchester United are currently lacking.
Ten Hag has problems to address in almost every position before the start of the 2022/23 season, but much of his focus this summer will surely be on United’s midfield. This is where Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggled most of all and where Manchester United have been most acutely lacking in identity.
United’s desperate need for a new midfield anchor is clear, particularly after the departure of Nemanja Matic, but Ten Hag must also find a source of creativity and guile further up the pitch. Paul Pogba and Juan Mata will also leave Old Trafford this summer and so there is a gaping hole in Manchester United’s midfield options.
Eriksen would fill that hole. Doubts over the Dane’s fitness levels following his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 were swept aside by his impressive performances for Brentford last season with Eriksen notching one goal and four assists in 11 Premier League appearances. He can still play at a high level.
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Bruno Fernandes might still be United’s first-choice in the attacking midfield position, but the Portuguese does his best work in open space. Eriksen, meanwhile, is capable of unpicking a low defensive block with a pass or quick piece of movement. The Dane possesses a skill set that nobody else in the Old Trafford dressing room has. He would bring a degree of intelligence.
Fernandes averaged 2.5 key passes per 90 minutes for United in the Premier League last season. Eriksen, playing for a Brentford team that averaged a lower possession share than United per 90 minutes, averaged 2.7. On top of this, he averaged two shots per 90 minutes – only Fernandes (2.5) and Cristiano Ronaldo (3.7) averaged more for the Old Trafford side.
In a 4-2-3-1 shape used by Ajax last season, Ten Hag could deploy Eriksen in behind a central striker or on the left wing where he would have the freedom to cut inside and create. He could also operate as the furthest forward in a midfield three should Ten Hag opt for a 4-3-3 or 5-3-2 formation. Eriksen could facilitate a change in style and approach for a Manchester United team that must get a lot better on the ball.
Tottenham Hotspur have also been linked with a move for their former player while Brentford remain hopeful of signing Eriksen to a longer contract. Yet the prospect of signing for United as Ten Hag starts a new project is surely an interesting one for the 30-year-old. It would be a new challenge for Eriksen when he is seemingly ready for one.
The signing of Eriksen would be a short-term solution, but a solution nonetheless. If Manchester United are keeping the purse strings tight this summer, as recent reports claim, Eriksen might be the best available candidate to fill a problem position. He might not be a direct replacement for Pogba or Mata, but that’s precisely why United could use him.