Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have fought their way back into the top-four race. Eriksen could make the difference for United in 2020.
Manchester United were dealt their first transfer-related blow before the January window even opened. On Sunday, three days before European clubs are permitted to register new players, Borussia Dortmund announced the imminent signing of Erling Haaland. Despite substantial speculation, the Red Bull Salzburg striker will not be moving to Old Trafford.
Missing out on the teenager’s signature will no doubt have disappointed United fans. But it’s not a disaster. Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James have struck up a fine relationship as the team’s front three. And as far as the January transfer window is concerned, United have other priorities.
Chief among them is the acquisition of a creative midfielder. United have beaten Chelsea, Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester City this season. They have drawn with Arsenal, Wolves and Sheffield United. They are the only team to have avoided defeat by Liverpool.
Yet despite that excellent record against the division’s top eight (and Arsenal, a struggling member of the big six), United are fifth in the Premier League table. That’s because they have been poor against the sides below them in the standings. United have lost to Crystal Palace, Newcastle, West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth. They have dropped further points against Aston Villa, Everton and Southampton.
The key reason for their difficulties against so-called weaker sides is a lack of creativity. Martial, Rashford and James are devastating in transition and on the counter-attack. They’re not nearly as effective when denied space in behind.
Paul Pogba has been absent for much of the campaign. United have missed his invention. But even if the Frenchman stays fit, Solskjaer needs more subtlety in his midfield. Eriksen, a provider of 16 assists in the Premier League and Champions League last season, would supply it.
According to Opta, no player in England’s top tier has set up more goals or created more chances than Eriksen since his arrival in 2013. He also tops the ranking for goals from outside the box and direct free-kick goals.
Eriksen, however, has endured a difficult first half of 2019/20. He was excellent in Tottenham’s recent draw with Norwich, but such performances have been few and far between. In fact, the Denmark international has started only eight Premier League games this season.
That’s not because of his ability, but rather his contractual situation. Eriksen wants to leave Tottenham. He will be a free agent in June. Spurs are thought to be keen on a January sale in order that they do not lose one of their prized assets for nothing next summer.
United attempted to sign Eriksen in August, but the former Ajax man made it clear that he favored a move to Spain. That almost certainly remains the case. United must find a way to persuade Eriksen that Manchester is as attractive a destination as Madrid.
A run of just one defeat in nine games has breathed new life into United’s top-four challenge. Solskjaer’s side are now just four points behind Chelsea, occupants of the final Champions League qualification spot.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the January transfer window could define United’s season. The addition of Eriksen would significantly boost their chances of overhauling Chelsea. A return to the Champions League would make recruitment an easier task in the summer.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Eriksen will agree to a move in January. Nevertheless, United must do all they can to try and land the Tottenham playmaker.
This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.
Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:40 PM UTC