Where will Christian Eriksen fit in at Manchester United?
Christian Eriksen has verbally agreed to join Manchester United on a three-year deal, as confirmed by Fabrizio Romano. Although official signings and formalities are yet to be carried out, the Denmark international is all set to join the Red Devils on a free transfer.
The news comes as a reprieve for United fans amidst the uncertainty surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo's future. With Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia also set to join United, the club can now focus their energies on acquiring other priority targets like Frenkie de Jong and Lisandro Martinez.
Christian Eriksen made a heroic comeback to football after suffering a cardiac arrest in a group stage fixture against Finland at Euro 2020. After Inter Milan terminated his contract due to local regulations, Christian Eriksen was allowed to train with Ajax to build up fitness when out of contract, with Ten Hag being their manager.
He later joined Premier League newcomers Brentford and helped them stay afloat in the English top flight. He contributed five goals in a six-month deal. The Dane was tipped to join either Brentford again or the Red Devils, but chose to join the latter.
With the departure of some prominent playmakers like Paul Pogba and Juan Mata this summer, Christian Eriksen's inclusion does give Ten Hag quite a few options in midfield. Here are a few ways in which the Denmark international could fit into Ten Hag's setup:
#3 Playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 formation
Bruno Fernandes has become an integral part of Manchester United’s attacking midfield over the last two years. The Portuguese has played some of his best games as the No.10 in United’s 4-2-3-1 formation. The 27-year-old was the primary attacking midfielder for the Red Devils last season.
However, with Christian Eriksen in the ranks, Ten Hag will have the luxury of rotating his players and using them wisely. The Dane is an excellent playmaker and has had 159 direct goal contributions in 305 games for Spurs. He has a Premier League pedigree and can more than deputize for Fernandes.
With the upcoming World Cup later this year, managers will have to be mindful of their players' workload. In the wake of the risk of serious injuries, having Eriksen will help ease the workload of players like Fernandes.
#2 Left-sided midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation
Christian Eriksen fared well on the left side of the midfield for Brentford last season. With either Scott McTominay or Fred as the central defensive midfielder, Eriksen can recreate his role with Fernandes on the right side of midfield.
Despite returning from a serious heart condition, the Dane still managed to put up impressive numbers in the Premier League last season. According to Fbref, the 30-year-old averaged 3.7 key passes and 6.23 progressive passes per game.
Eriksen also contributed directly to five goals in his tenure with the Bees. In Inter Milan's Scudetto-winning 2020-21 season, he juggled between playing in the center and left side of a 3-5-2 formation.
Notably, Pogba was used in that position on occasion by United, but didn't have the desired output. They may have that output with a serial provider like Eriksen. If the 30-year-old is open to the idea of playing a similar role to Dusan Tadic of Ajax, he could also be a makeshift winger for United’s center forward.
#1 One of two attacking midfielders in a 4-2-2-2/4-4-2 formation
The 4-2-2-2 and 4-4-2 formations are other ways through which Ten Hag can accommodate Christian Eriksen and Fernandes. In an attacking setup, McTominay and Fred could be a double pivot ahead of United's defense, while Christian Eriksen will take on the role of the playmaker alongside Fernandes.
Jadon Sancho could rotate for the duo, with Donny van de Beek deputizing for either of the defensive midfielders. Any one of the academy graduates could join both these players as deputies.
However, this formation is least likely to be used considering the complications of rotation and game time. Notably, interim manager Ralf Rangnick experimented with this formation but reverted to the 4-2-3-1 combination.