This past summer was a crucial transfer window for Manchester United, marking the beginning of an era under a new manager. The window was preceded by ten players leaving the club, making it a paramount priority to strengthen the squad. Manchester United broke their record transfer spend after completing six deals for £228m. Christian Eriksen was the only arrival who joined the club on a free transfer. Despite no fee being paid, the Danish midfielder may be Manchester United’s most important signing of 2022.
What’s common across every top club in Europe is that they have a playmaker capable of making line-breaking passes from a deep position. This midfielder acts as the “metronome” of the team. Responsible for dictating the tempo of play while serving as the “quarterback” who organizes the offensive movement for the squad. Manchester City has De Bruyne, Liverpool has Thiago, Real Madrid has Modric, and the list continues. A deep-lying playmaker is integral for success in the modern game.
Manchester United hasn’t had a midfielder with these attributes since Michael Carrick played for the club between 2006-2018. For twelve seasons, Carrick was responsible for linking play in the center of the pitch for United. The Englishmen possessed the quality required to play at the top until his retirement, but still, United needed a similar style of player to split time and place less responsibility on Carrick. What’s embarrassing for the club is that they failed to attain a player to compete with Carrick during the ladder stages of his career, but they also failed to acquire a player to replace him all-together. Since the 2016/17 season, Manchester United has spent £335m on midfielders, but none have lived up to their price tag and truly succeeded at the club.
Four years on, Manchester United has finally replaced Michael Carrick. Christian Eriksen brings versatility, tactical flexibility, and expansive passing range to this United side. Since Eriksen’s first appearance in the Premier League, only Kevin De Bruyne has more assists. He brings experience and much-needed leadership to the squad, having made over two hundred Premier League appearances and over one hundred caps at the international level. Being an Ajax academy graduate, he’s well versed in Erik Ten Hag’s style of play, and his role under the Dutch coach improves the players around him. Eriksen’s partnership with Casemiro in a double-pivot, with Bruno Fernandes ahead, has the potential to be one of the most robust and dynamic midfield threes in the world.
When Eriksen first joined the club, it was expected he would provide versatility and competition for places in the first team. With the club failing to acquire top target Frenkie De Jong, Eriksen seized his opportunity to claim his spot in the first-team lineup. Eriksen has now started every match this season across all competitions, proving just how quickly he’s become an important and reliable asset to Manchester United.