Manchester United have found their ideal Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard replacement – Dominic Booth

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Eyebrows were raised when Manchester United’s interest in Christian Eriksen first became apparent this summer. You could understand why some supporters did not see the sense in it.

Eriksen’s recent history is complicated and United have been intertwined with the player for a few years, without him ever actually coming close to an Old Trafford move. In his Tottenham days, Eriksen was among the Premier League’s most coveted talents, a genuine game-changing playmaker who United admired from afar.

Had Mauricio Pochettino made the move to Manchester in 2019, Eriksen might have joined his former Spurs boss at United. Instead, a year later he joined ex-Reds Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young and Alexis Sanchez in Antonio Conte’s lockdown Inter Milan squad, which was quickly becoming a Serie A reimagining of the Premier League’s 2014-18 elite.

READ MORE: United make improved offer for Frenkie de Jong

Conte’s theory that the former stars of the English top flight could thrive in Italy a few years down the line was proven right in the cases of Lukaku and Sanchez, who both made contributions en route to Inter’s Scudetto of 2020/21. And although Eriksen contributed in 18 months in Milan, he struggled for long stretches and many deemed him a player in decline by the time Euro 2021 rolled around.

Everyone knows what happened next to Eriksen, as the player suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch while playing for Denmark at the tournament. His life was miraculously saved, the football world stood still and prayed for his recovery. Few expected him to ever play the game again, let alone predicted what happened next.

Never mind recovering from the ordeal, Eriksen found himself playing top level Premier League football again within eight months, signing for Brentford on a short-term deal and playing a major part in keeping the Bees away from relegation.

One of the defining images of the 2021/22 campaign was the sight of United loanee Brandon Williams, playing for Norwich against Brentford, having been wrestled to the ground by an opposing player, getting up to respond angrily – only to see it was Eriksen, football’s new favorite son. Williams hugged him heartily instead.

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But it’s for footballing reasons that United are now keen on signing Eriksen. As free transfers go, this would be a very handy one.

He’s still only 30, an international superstar boasting more than 100 caps, and a proven Premier League star as well, having been named in the PFA team of the year as recently as 2018.

Those questioning United’s interest point to the fact that Bruno Fernandes is the incumbent in Eriksen’s favorite No.10 role, with Donny van de Beek as back-up.

But signing Eriksen for nothing is an opportunity new United boss Erik ten Hag can ill afford to turn down. He needs to pack his squad with technically adept footballers who understand his way of playing. Eriksen, a former Ajax player and a natural ball-player, fits the bill.

United have also seen Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba depart this summer. And while Frenkie de Jong is a major target to fill one of those midfield berths – and another Ajax player in Antony is of interest in the forward positions – Eriksen would be the ideal Mata and / or Lingard replacement.

Neither were a regular starter for United in recent seasons, but they offered attacking quality and versatility off the bench, and were popular squad members. Eriksen would certainly be popular with his peers at Carrington, he’d probably accept a slightly lesser role given his health issues and would give United’s squad that extra sheen, that added depth it looks to be lacking after a summer exodus.

This is very much a signing for the here and now, borne out of necessity rather than sentimentality.

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