After Manchester United’s terrible start in the EPL, it looked as though Erik ten Hag would be a short stay at the club. Defeats to Brighton and Brentford did not inspire any confidence. Eric seemed to be the most deliberate decision the Mancunians had made in recent years. For things to work, trust was needed – the manager had yet to build a cohesive team. Another minus was the purchase of Antony for a mind-boggling €100 million. The Brazilian was clearly not worth that money, but, as they say, the head coach insisted.
It is undoubtedly not worth discussing inclusion in the title race – although it is impossible not to note the emerging trends. And, above all, the significant role played by Christian Eriksen, who has found a productive rapport with Bruno Fernandes.
Now Manchester United have two creatives in the centre of the field. Christian perfectly fits the Dutch manager’s concept and serves as a bridge to his ideas on the field, and the coach believes he is the right player for his vision. The midfielder found common ground with ten Hag during negotiations.
In the case of Eriksen, Mancunians have gained a second centre-back with excellent field vision, first passing, clever movement and a willingness to play for the team’s good. Christian is the most involved player in the Mancunians’ passing game. Bruno Fernandes has similar qualities, with whom the Dane is a brilliant combination.
Eriksen and Bruno’s movements around the ground play a considerable role. Even in the opening stages of the attack, they are helpful. When the Red Devils have the ball, Man United’s wingers move down to the final third of the field, leaving the centre-backs on their own.
In the match against Arsenal, it was obvious how Varan and Martinez lacked a third to develop their attack, with the Gunners blocking the pass lines. Christian stepped in at first, began to drop down the line to the centre-backs and then directed the attack. Bruno could play in the position of the ‘ten’ or the attacking centre, while Rashford is dropping down to the centre of the field. Later, Malacia/Dalot were placed lower – so Eriksen was relieved of some of his duties to assist in the attack.
The main strength of these midfielders is their field vision and passing, skills that complete each other. Under pressure, Christian can still find someone to pass the ball to and escalate the game – his pass to Bruno started the attack that culminated with Antony’s goal against Arsenal. Similarly, Manchester United netted their second goal against Arsenal, with Bruno crossing just wide enough for Rashford to run out from under the defender and receive the ball in the empty area. The third goal came on Fernandes’ first pass to Eriksen when four opponents surrounded him.