Talking Tactics

How Eriksen's return will lift Man Utd attack

By Adrian Clarke 12 Apr 2023

Adrian Clarke looks at what fit-again midfielder's impact means for Man Utd ahead of Forest trip

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Player analysis - Christian Eriksen (MUN)

Eriksen’s return to fitness provides Erik ten Hag with the option of moving Bruno Fernandes back into his more accustomed attacking midfield role at Nottingham Forest this Sunday.

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Fernandes impressed in a deeper role during Old Trafford victories against Brentford and Everton, creating nine chances across those two matches.

Getting on to the ball to dictate play, he averaged 99 passes per 90 minutes in that position for Man Utd.

Midfield options

Ten Hag is suddenly spoilt for choice in central midfield.

He may have the luxury of choosing between Fernandes, Eriksen, Casemiro, Scott McTominay, Fred and Marcel Sabitzer for their trip to Forest.

The Casemiro-Eriksen-Fernandes midfield axis appears to be his preferred option, so it will be fascinating to see if Ten Hag immediately turns to that for this key fixture.

Below is Fernandes’ touch map from the match with Forest on December 27, when Casemiro and Eriksen occupied deeper positions.

The bulk of his involvements in that 3-0 success were in advanced areas and he got into the box on numerous occasions.

Bruno Fernandes touch map MUNNFO
Bruno Fernandes touch map v Nott'm Forest

Last time out against Everton, Fernandes still got forward but spent a lot of time in possession just in front of Man Utd’s back four.

Here is his touch map for the 77 minutes prior to Eriksen’s arrival, which saw him moved forward.

Bruno Fernandes touch map MUNEVE
Bruno Fernandes touch map v Everton

Despite only starting 18 Premier League matches this season, Eriksen leads the way for assists, with seven.

He adds control and composure to the side when he features, but also unpredictable movement.

Eriksen creates unusual angles with his distribution, that gives United a better opportunity to unlock defences. The Dane has created goals by popping up down the left and right, as well as making telling central runs into the final third.

Two of his assists also came from outstanding set-piece deliveries.

Man Utd best mins/assists 2022/23
Assists Mins per assist
Eriksen 7 Eriksen 216.0
Fernandes 6 Garnacho 224.5
Rashford 4 Martial 269.5
Casemiro 3 Fernandes 420.0

Eriksen’s guile does make him their most likely goal provider.

Despite spending much of this season performing in an orthodox central midfield role, he delivers assists at around double the rate of Fernandes on a minutes-per-assist basis.

His invention and eye for a pass could certainly benefit the fit-again Anthony Martial, who is expected to start against Forest.

Man Utd coped well in the absence of Eriksen, who did not feature at all in February or March, but their record with him in their starting XI is stronger, as they score more goals and boast a higher win percentage too.

Man Utd when Eriksen starts/does not
  Eriksen starts Eriksen doesn't start
Matches 18 11
Win ratio 61.1% 54.5%
Goals/90 1.66 1.27

While it may not be ideal for Ten Hag to change a winning side, the prospect of getting Eriksen back into the team will be a strong temptation.

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