Amazing passage by Bruno Fernandes: out of the right shoe, pinpoint precision, perfect calibration, great awareness, the Portuguese at the height of his creativity. Delivery of that quality requires a finish and Marcus Rashford, after a superb run, delivered it. However, the passage and awareness that preceded Fernandes’ show in the 3-1 win over Arsenal was also quite significant and perfectly encapsulated the void Christian Eriksen tapped at Manchester United.
There was a quick glance from Eriksen at Fernandes to check both the position of his shoulder and that of his teammates before receiving the pass from Diogo Dalot. With Martin Odegaard advancing behind him and Oleksandr Zinchenko making it to Fernandes, Eriksen had a split second to find the right ball and executed it beautifully. From there, a touch took Fernandes away from Zinchenko, then it came That through ball. Arsenal was sliced and diced.
Slowed down, Eriksen’s quick, forward pass may seem simple, but if it had been that easy United would not have seemed so short in those moments on that part of the pitch for so long. How United wanted so much intelligence, quick thinking and dexterity of touch in central midfield. Squint and it could have been Paul Scholes: How many times have Old Trafford witnessed the former English midfielder throwing attacks from the depths like that?
Arsenal had been cautioned: Eriksen had freed Fernandes in preparation for United’s first goal in much the same way: breaking lines and throwing opponents on their back foot.
Fielded as a false nine in the loss to Brighton and then as a pivot in the 4-0 capitulation at Brentford, few have fought as much as Eriksen in the first two games. In truth, in both cases he did not receive any favors from his manager, but Erik ten Hag acted swiftly to remedy those missteps, moving Eriksen into a no. 6 / no. The role that is his calling card and the results have been transformative. Some players would have struggled to recover so quickly from an early setback in their United career, but the Danish playmaker looked completely serene.
It certainly seems significant that Fernandes’ marked return in form coincided with the arrival of Eriksen. Creatively, it seemed Fernandes have been high in midfield in the previous two and a half seasons and the Portuguese’s frustration with the team’s struggles to get him the ball to the right positions has never been more pronounced than last season. But, in Eriksen, he found someone on his wavelength and with the tools to feed him. Although Arsenal were the best side until Rashford restored United’s lead, they were mercilessly knocked out on three separate occasions by that tempting Eriksen-Fernandes link.
For the third goal, it was Eriksen who received the ball from Fernandes, the Dane spotted the space to enter, picking up his teammate’s pass from the right wing and coldly squaring for Rashford to claim his second goal. “They look really good [playing] together, “said Ten Hag.
Ten Hag’s only source of regret in the summer window was United’s inability to land their main midfield target, Frenkie de Jong, and forced the manager into a readjustment. But with Eriksen and Fernandes in this form and Casemiro entering the fray, the midfield – a problem area for too long – suddenly looks much stronger. A work in progress, yes – it hasn’t always been comfortable against Arsenal – but there has been an improvement in quality and the likes of Scott McTominay and Fred, two men who no longer routinely play together, both have a look better as a result.
“We put it a little further down the field, like a no. 6 / no. 8 role, “said Ten Hag of Eriksen.” He has a lot of freedom. He can make a match for you, make the game change, see a pass between lines, make the final pass and go on offense to score a goal. improve her [defending]. When he plays a little mistake like today, we give it to him. He played a magnificent game. “
United’s £ 85m new signing Antony may have had a dream start with a debut goal to remember, but it was the man signed on a free transfer who made the team play.