Thursday night was a challenging night for Manchester United, both on and off the field.
With the news breaking less than two hours before the game, it’s not unexpected that the game became somewhat of an afterthought at somber Old Trafford. Erik ten Hag, on the other hand, would have been the first to acknowledge that Her Majesty’s death was tragic. United’s performance in their first Europa League encounter of the season should not be blamed on the Queen.
Ten Hag gave opportunities to several players who have yet to see significant playing time this season. Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Casemiro, Fred, and Cristiano Ronaldo were all given the chance to give their manager a headache.
Sadly, none of them will have persuaded Ten Hag to include them in the next Premier League match, whenever that may be. In reality, the only true standout performer was Christian Eriksen, who has become known as ‘Mr. Reliable’ at the Theatre of Dreams.
Eriksen would only play 45 minutes against the La Liga side, but he demonstrated why he is quickly becoming one of the first names on the team sheet. The Dane is settling into the ‘Frenkie de Jong role’ that Ten Hag craved, and he was at the center of everything positive for United.
What is becoming clear is that no other Reds midfielder can do that role as well as Eriksen. His vision on the ball is fantastic, and he continues to demonstrate why the 30-year-old was a wise investment this summer.
It’s hard to believe this is the same man that battled on his return to Brentford in August. Eriksen was overawed by a very hostile crowd towards him throughout the setback that day in the capital.
Instead of retreating into himself, Eriksen has demonstrated all of the characteristics of a quality player and has improved his game to guarantee that this does not happen again. In the United midfield, he is now in the enviable position of being unstoppable.
The Dane is now performing admirably as the shuttle’s between defense and offense, with the only remaining question being who will accompany him in the long run. Scott McTominay or Casemiro. On present form, the latter would have to start with Eriksen in the upcoming Premier League fixture, with McTominay having also greatly improved his game.
United fans will have been worried about Eriksen after his early exit from the game on Thursday. Being replaced at half-time will have raised some eyebrows, but perhaps for the sake of the Reds, the switch was just to allow Eriksen to recover before the next critical match.