Upon arriving at Manchester United as a free agent last July, Christian Eriksen was tasked with the heavy duty of reviving a flailing midfield following a disappointing 2021/22 Premier League campaign.
With almost immediate effect, the Danish international’s creativity began to take effect.
Eriksen’s first goal contribution in a Man United shirt came against a high-flying Arsenal team, assisting Marcus Rashford to score United’s goal in a resounding 3-1 triumph.
Also important to note is that Eriksen was slotted into central midfield alongside Scott McTominay in the fixture before Casemiro came into the fold.
From the end of October until January, Eriksen hit his purple patch, scoring a goal and contributing five assists in 11 league games.
While Eriksen’s fine form was brought to a swift end after he suffered an ankle injury during United’s 3-1 win over Reading in the FA Cup, he quickly bounced back upon his return to fitness.
Thrust back into the action in April, the 31 year old greatly impressed manager Erik ten Hag with his performance during United’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest when he ended up covering for an injured Marcel Sabitzer.
“He (Eriksen)’s a natural talent. Everything is going so smoothly with him, so many skills, game understanding. He would not have started if Marcel hadn’t dropped out but also when Marcel’s dropping out, we’re really happy with his performances in the last games,” Ten Hag observed.
Overall, Eriksen proved his worth as a central midfielder through his intuitiveness and passing ability, registering 85% pass accuracy (including 90% in his own half), and creating six big chances. (Stats via Sofascore)
Most notably, he achieved a team-leading eight assists in the league.
While an undoubted asset at Old Trafford, there is one area where Eriksen has displayed vulnerability.
Compared to United’s new number seven Mason Mount, Eriksen appears less suited to Ten Hag’s high-pressure style of play.
Historically, Mount has exhibited more physical prowess, superior pressing ability, and a more energetic presence, winning 47% of his total duels last season compared to Eriksen’s success rate of 39%.
Despite the areas where Mount outperforms Eriksen, it’s important to note that there were also areas where Eriksen outperformed the 24 year old last season.
Eriksen’s passing accuracy exceeded Mount’s 80% accuracy during the last league season, while Mount’s three goals and two assists fell short of Eriksen’s number, although it is important to take Chelsea’s poor performance overall into account.
Ultimately, Eriksen provides a level of control, creativity, and calm temperament to the field that the likes of Mount do not necessarily deliver.
This ultimately means that Eriksen will be useful to United in ways that other midfield options are not depending on the playing style of the opposition and what skillset is needed to gain an upper hand.
Also vital to consider is the need to rotate players given the Red Devils’ intense schedule, especially with Champions League football in the mix.
While Mount’s arrival has certainly generated hype, Eriksen brings a valuable and slightly different skillset to United’s midfield, as his performances last season suggest.
Eriksen will certainly have an important role to play as United brace themselves for a packed season come August.