Eriksen to Man Utd: How Erik ten Hag can use his new midfield signing

Christian Eriksen has agreed to join Manchester United on a free transfer, after leaving Brentford as a free agent.

The Danish midfielder made a remarkable return to football with the promoted Premier League side last season, after recovering from a cardiac arrest suffered on the pitch at Euro 2020.

But, after a stellar stint with The Bees in the second half of the 2021/22 season, United have won the race to sign the 30-year-old ahead of next season, per David Ornstein.

Eriksen had to leave former employers Inter due to regulations prohibiting him from playing in Italy, but made an immediate impact upon signing for Brentford in January 2022, steering them clear of relegation with five goal contributions from 11 Premier League games.

Unfortunately for Brentford, the allure of United has proven too strong and they look set to lose the man they welcomed back to the game in January, with Eriksen also turning down a return to Spurs in the process.

It’s music to the ears of United fans, with Eriksen looking set to follow Tyrell Malacia through the doors at Carrington this week, joining up with Erik ten Hag’s squad ahead of their pre-season tour.

Manchester United’s transfer latest

Eriksen features against Manchester United in 2021/22
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 02: Christian Eriksen of Brentford looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Brentford at Old Trafford on May 02, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

After a slow start to the summer transfer window, Ten Hag is beginning to pull together his idea of what he wants United to look like in his first season, with a move for Frenkie de Jong still in advanced stages and a deal for Lisandro Martinez also reportedly in the works.

Despite the news that Cristiano Ronaldo has asked to leave United amid frustrations with signings and a subsequent lack of ambition, the addition of Eriksen adds to a roster of forward players that could be moulded into something special under the new manager.

Eriksen trained with Ten Hag briefly at Ajax upon his return to football last season in a bid to get match fit once again, and Ten Hag clearly has an appreciation for the technical floor he would equip the team with.

His arrival poses an intriguing question; how on earth does Ten Hag shape United’s attack next season? We at GIVEMESPORT have come up with four different configurations, making use of what players United already have to hand. And the results are striking. Let’s take a look.

1. Eriksen in the 10 role

A graphic deploying Eriksen as a number 10 for United
Eriksen could take up the role behind the striker for United

Beginning with perhaps the most conventional configuration, we can expect Eriksen to feature prominently in the 10 position for United next season, likely rotating with Bruno Fernandes.

Fernandes has essentially had the position exclusively to himself since signing in January 2020, but there are many who feel he could be used more effectively as a wide midfielder, playing killer passes and cutting inside from the left flank. This would also create room for an overlap from deeper positions.

Eriksen would be at his creative best, while also giving the Red Devils a more composed presence in an advanced area; a quality which Fernandes has lacked all too often. The pair feeding passes into Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, while Donny van de Beek bridges the gap from behind, could work nicely.

2. Eriksen in the double pivot

A graphic highlighting how Eriksen could play in a deeper role for Man Utd
Eriksen could be used deeper on occasions

Eriksen had to learn to play a more disciplined, deeper role during his time at Inter under Antonio Conte. It took some doing and saw him left out for a while, but when he figured it out, he thrived and was key as they lifted the 2020/21 Serie A title.

Repeating a similar feat in the Premier League won’t be easy, and certainly isn’t something Ten Hag could make use of every weekend. He knows how to be of use deeper, however, having had that experience in Italy, and would provide United with such a calming presence in a double pivot; one they have significantly lacked in midfield.

Eriksen alongside either of McTominay or Fred would make them both look endlessly better, but pairing with McTominay is a particularly solid idea for rotation when considering a double pivot.

3. The false nine

Now this one is something different, but don’t be surprised if we see something like this next season. Ten Hag will make use of United’s well-known 4-2-3-1, but is also a fan of a 4-3-3, and could use Fernandes as a false nine with his ability to play passes in behind and fire them in himself.

It could give both Sancho and Rashford a new lease of life, and while that midfield lacks defensive stability, it’s about time they tried to dominate teams in possession of the ball more often.

Again, Eriksen’s experience in Italy would serve him well in a slightly deeper role here, but also sees him equipped with keeping tempo in midfield and linking the team’s play together. A significant step forward for United.

4. Eriksen as a wide midfielder

Similarly to how we anticipated Fernandes might be moved wide for Eriksen to play as the 10, we can expect Eriksen to operate in the similar, wide left role on occasion, pushing Rashford up top once again.

With Ronaldo leaving and United’s striker position uncertain, making use of the composure and passing range that Eriksen provides is vital. Pace and width can come from the overlapping left-back or the right flank, while the double pivot again suits McTominay, but could just as easily make use of Fred.

A subtle tweak, but one that could greatly benefit the Red Devils’ attempts to use possession effectively in attack.

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