Manchester United’s starting XI line-up for their first game of the season could look a whole lot different to the one that played on the final day against Crystal Palace.
There are expected to be plenty of changes at Manchester United as Erik ten Hag prepares to get his squad ready for their Premier League opener against Brighton.
The Red Devils will be looking to improve on last season’s sixth-place finish with Ten Hag to quickly imprint his style and philosophy on the club.
Although it proved to be a slow start to the transfer window, United have been a little busier in recent days having completed the signings of Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen.
Eriksen has penned a three-year deal after he left Brentford at the end of the 2021/22 campaign, where he scored once and provided four assists in 11 appearances.
Ten Hag made the Denmark international one of his top transfer targets with the midfielder known to the ‘Ajax style‘ and he could flourish in a United shirt.
Frenkie de Jong is close to joining from Barcelona, while Antony could also make the switch to Old Trafford after working with Ten Hag at Ajax last season.
All these signings could well happen before their clash against Brighton.
With that in mind, here are four ways Ten Hag could line-up with Eriksen in midfield.
Fernandes moving out to the left would allow Eriksen a free role in the midfield to roam around and create his magic.
In this formation, he would likely play alongside Frenkie de Jong in a midfield two with Fred as the deepest while that could easily be Scott McTominay instead. Eriksen’s ability to use both feet effectively means he can float across the middle of the park, making it hard for defenders to pick him up.
Although his formation does not have a natural No.10, Eriksen would be the most advanced of the midfield three and he can then drop into positions where he may not be able to if Fernandes was in his natural role – just behind the striker.
Instead, the Portuguese playmaker shifts the left-hand side, where he has previously played for his national side and this could be something Ten Hag tries in order to get the best out of Eriksen.
Eriksen as the No.10 – No place for Fernandes.
Ten Hag could try out a system without Fernandes, meaning Eriksen would be United’s No.10 with De Jong and either Fred or Scott McTominay deeper.
The former Sporting Lisbon man was a mainstay in the side last campaign but his drop off in form compared to the previous season may see Ten Hag freshen up his midfield.
Eriksen would be given a free reign to pick up the ball and create for his teammates – something Fernandes lacked on a number of occasions as United struggled to break down deep blocks.
Having impressed for Brentford as their most advanced midfielder, he could do the same at United and benefit from not having another creative force alongside him, like his situation at the Bees.
Vitaly Janelt and Christian Norgaard were the two alongside him in the midfield at Brentford and it allowed him so much more room to operate, and this could be similar without Fernandes in the team.
Eriksen brought out the best in Bryan Mbeumo and Ivan Toney towards the end of the season, with the pair being far more productive in front of goal.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial will be hoping he can have a similar impact on them, too.
Fernandes‘ first full season in England proved to be his most productive of his career to date, having scored 28 goals and made 17 assists in all competitions – a record bettered by just Harry Kane in the Premier League.
He played as the sole No.10 in that campaign with a No.8 and a No.6 alongside him.
If Ten Hag wants to get the best out of Fernandes, then this would be the best way to do that as he is more suited in the advanced role, allowing him to make third man runs behind the striker.
That is where most of his goals came from as he had the ability to get forward, break through the lines and stick chances away.
This would see Eriksen move deeper into the No.8 role – something he used to do at Tottenham Hotspur with Dele Alli in a similar position to what Fernandes plays.
It is certainly a formation that has the potential to work given Fernandes‘ pedigree and Eriksen’s capability to create from a deeper role.