Manchester United make their long-awaited return to Premier League action away to rivals Manchester City this afternoon, with Erik ten Hag’s side looking to pick up where they left off prior to the recent international break.
Following a miserable start to the season under the new manager – with dismal defeats to both Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford – the Dutchman has inspired a real revival for the Red Devils since then, with four straight victories in the top flight.
The club’s most recent league outing – which came four weeks ago – saw United run out 3-1 winners over table-toppers, Arsenal at Old Trafford, with Ten Hag proving his big game credentials having already overcome long-time foes Liverpool a few weeks earlier.
A key figure in this recent turnaround has been summer arrival, Christian Eriksen, with the 30-year-old already proving a real astute piece of business having been signed on a free transfer after a brief stint with the Bees last term.
Just over a year on from suffering a life-threatening cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020, the playmaker is currently earning rave reviews from both pundits, supporters and teammates alike, having sparkled in a deeper midfield role of late.
The £150k-per-week menace has notably been lauded by club legend Paul Scholes for his “intelligence” and forward-thinking nature in the centre of the park, while midfield colleague Bruno Fernandes has also praised the former Tottenham Hotspur man’s impact on his own game, stating that he makes life “easier” for the Portugal international.
The £19.8m-rated gem will head into today’s derby clash at the Etihad having also showcased his unerring quality on the international stage, after netting an outrageous long-range strike in the defeat to Croatia last week, before again catching the eye in the win over France on Sunday.
That latter display saw the “absolute genius” – as dubbed by Statman Dave – at his very best as he simply ran the show against Didier Deschamps’ side, providing a staggering eight key passes including a delightful, searching ball to tee up Andreas Skov Olsen, only for the promising forward to subsequently spurn the gilt-edged opening.
Such creative brilliance will be needed against a City side who twice breezed to victory over United last season, although Eriksen has previously proven his knack for terrorising the champions, having been something of a nemesis for the Cityzens during his spell at Spurs.
The dynamic Dane has repeatedly proven the difference maker against today’s opponents over the years, having netted five times and laid on six assists in just 16 meetings across all competitions – only providing more goal contributions (13) against Swansea City of all his career opponents.
A notable triumph over the Manchester outfit for the north Londoners back in February 2016 saw the 117-cap sensation net a late winner to clinch victory against Manuel Pellegrini’s side, with a repeat of such heroics this afternoon likely to go down well with his current employers.
For all the likely talk of Cristiano Ronaldo and the aforementioned Fernandes, et al, providing the decisive blow in attack, it would be no surprise to see Eriksen making the telling impact as Ten Hag’s undoubted underdogs look to see off Pep Guardiola’s imperious outfit on the road.