Man Utd legends Cole and Robson comment on Eriksen signing
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Bruno Fernandes only signed a new contract at Manchester United in the summer to commit his long-term future to the club. But the Portuguese star will be fully aware that his new deal will provide no guarantees in helping him keep his first-team place after the arrival of Christian Eriksen.
One of Ten Hag’s biggest power moves at Manchester United so far has been to create a battle between Fernandes and Eriksen for the playmaker role. While the former has been an impressive performer for United since his £46.5million switch from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020, there have been signs of decline in recent months.
Some may blame Cristiano Ronaldo for taking the limelight away from Fernandes, but the 27-year-old’s form dropped off at times last season when his team were already struggling. And perhaps that has lent some insight into why Ten Hag has brought in Eriksen, a player who he knows understands his footballing philosophy, on a free transfer from Brentford.
The midfielder may be on the wrong side of 30 in his career but, as his short stint in west London proved, the Dane is more motivated to prolong his career after his miraculous recovery from a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 last year.
He was a creative force for Thomas Frank’s side last season after signing on in February, with 10 of his 11 appearances coming from the start. While his solitary goal came in a shock 4-1 win against Chelsea, he also laid on four assists for his team-mates to highlight his creative influence in the final third.
And Eriksen will have done his chances of replacing Fernandes in the first-team no harm at all after scoring on his debut in a behind-closed-doors 4-1 win against National League outfit Wrexham on Wednesday.
Fernandes managed 10 league goals and six assists in 35 Premier League outings last season, which dwarfs Eriksen’s goal contributions. But in terms of minutes per goal or assist, Eriksen has the edge with a goal or assist almost every two games at 187.6 minutes, while Fernandes managed to contribute every 195 minutes.
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Even when it comes to creating chances overall, Eriksen is still out in front with 2.9 per 90 minutes, fractionally ahead of Fernandes on 2.6.
There is also an argument that as a high-ranking personality within the squad, Fernandes has a tendency to vent his frustrations at his team-mates. It is a trait that has been picked up by pundits during games, suggesting the Portuguese could be a disruptive influence in the dressing room for Ten Hag to handle.
As a contrast, Eriksen is typically more mild-mannered and keeps a low profile.
Fernandes has already spoken positively about how he is looking forward to Ten Hag’s new regime. But the fact is Eriksen was signed by the Dutchman specifically to bring something extra that the team was lacking before — and that will give Fernandes some cause for concern.
From his interview in discussing how big Ten Hag’s influence was, the Dane suggested he is not just there to make up the numbers: “I want to come here to play football, I don’t come here just for the logo itself, I want to come here and play.
“Obviously, to speak with the manager and hear his ideas and have conversations with him on the football terms, was great and ideal for me to get the decision and the possibility of coming to Manchester United.”
Naturally, it would not be surprising to see Fernandes in the starting XI ahead of Eriksen for their first game of the season at home to Brighton, given he is fully acquainted with his team-mates while Eriksen is still adjusting.
But the pressure will be on the United star to perform now that he has competition for the role of United’s chief creator.
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