‘There is an attacking player who even surprised me, and not just because of what had happened that could have been dramatic for him, and obviously it’s Christian Eriksen… he has always been someone who has a remarkable technical ability… but the volume of games he plays, this ability even to recover is impressive.’
That was France coach Didier Deschamps being effusive about Eriksen’s brilliance before his team played Denmark on Sunday night.
So imagine how he felt after Eriksen dominated the world champions in a 2-0 victory that very nearly delivered the Danes to the UEFA Nations League finals.
Christian Eriksen looked emotional as he applauded the fans at the Parken Stadium after Denmark’s impressive 2-0 win over France in the UEFA Nations League
The Manchester United midfielder’s stats were highly impressive during Sunday night’s win
Even more remarkable is that Eriksen’s form comes just a year after he suffered a cardiac arrest playing for Denmark against Finland at Euro 2020
There seems to be universal astonishment that Eriksen can be so influential and so relentless just over a year since that cardiac arrest on the pitch during Euro 2020.
Nobody who witnessed those horrendous scenes at a stunned Parken Stadium that night could ever have imagined Eriksen returning to a football pitch, let alone playing such good football.
Fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) device to regulate his heartbeat, Eriksen simply hasn’t missed a beat for Manchester United or his country in recent months.
It’d be impressive given everything Eriksen has gone through if he was a no more than a bit-part player, perhaps making the odd substitute appearance as he took it easy.
So to have made such a fine start to his Old Trafford career while also being integral to World Cup-bound Denmark is nothing short of remarkable.
Eriksen (left) has started well under Erik ten Hag (centre) – but his Denmark performances beg the question as to whether he should play alongside Bruno Fernandes (right)
Eriksen has probably played more football than he expected since arriving at Old Trafford
His stats from Sunday night tell you everything about a player making the most of his second chance in football, let alone life.
He created eight goalscoring chances against France, completed 84 per cent of his passes, managed nine successful crosses, won four ground duels and recovered the ball no fewer than 10 times.
It was an eye-catching all-round display and helped Denmark to a victory that was sealed by goals in the first-half by Kasper Dolberg and Andreas Skov Olsen.
In the end, it wasn’t quite enough to send the Danes through to next summer’s Nations League finals because Croatia won 3-1 in Austria to pip them to top spot.
That came after Eriksen scored a screamer from 30 yards in a losing cause in Zagreb on Thursday night.
Eriksen celebrates his screamer of a goal in a losing cause for Denmark against Croatia
Eriksen celebrates with Kasper Dolberg after Denmark opened the scoring against France
Since he returned to the Denmark team in March, Eriksen has scored against Holland and Serbia, and been a real creative force in other games.
In Kasper Hjulmand’s system on Sunday night, Eriksen played in a midfield three alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney, which seems to fully unlock his capabilities.
All of which begs the question as to whether Eriksen could be used slightly differently for Manchester United.
So far, he’s been part of the midfield two in Erik ten Hag’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, with Bruno Fernandes playing the more creative No 10 role ahead of him.
Eriksen hasn’t complained and has willingly mucked in with the defensive work when required, usually in tandem with Scott McTominay.
In fact, his Premier League stats since arriving at United have been very good. He’s made eight defensive clearances and further relieved pressure by winning back possession 39 times in six games.
Eriksen has willingly put in a defensive shift in his deeper midfield role for United this season
He has also shown his ability to pick a pass and unlock opposition defences in United red
And that boundless energy was apparent when he stormed through Arsenal’s defence to square to Marcus Rashford to seal a 3-1 win in United’s last league outing.
His creativity and attacking stats haven’t been as eye-catching – just the one big chance created, a crossing accuracy of 26 per cent, just two through balls, one assist and no goals.
But perhaps much of this can be explained by playing so deep. If Eriksen played alongside Fernandes or even as a No 8 then it would be a different story.
Fernandes has himself started the season really well, enjoying a fresh lease of life after a disappointing 2021-22 campaign. So it is tricky to make a case for replacing Fernandes with Eriksen.
Ten Hag must surely have considered playing them both together in a ‘double 8’. There is a danger of treading on toes but their respective games are varied enough to unlock most opposition defences.
A spell at Brentford in the second half of last season got Eriksen back into English football
But more likely, the Dutch coach concluded that United’s defence would be left too exposed by only having one holding midfielder.
McTominay is a grafter but he alone can’t stop the tide against the best opponents and adequately shield Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.
Even Casemiro, United’s £70million summer arrival from Real Madrid, isn’t capable of winning every midfield battle and is likely to be integrated alongside Fred or McTominay at some point.
And that could squeeze Eriksen out, which would be a real shame but United have enough games this season to ensure he still plays regularly.
At some point, Ten Hag has a big call to make as he tries to integrate £70m man Casemiro
Should Ten Hag make a concession and adjust to a 4-1-2-3 formation in the odd game, Eriksen and Fernandes could play ahead of Casemiro with a forward line of Antony, Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
It would offer Eriksen some more freedom but most Premier League opponents are able enough to mean the Dane would still have to track back.
But Eriksen isn’t the complaining type and his enduring love of football shines through every time he takes the field. His performances continue to surprise and delight.