This weekend’s Premier League match between Man United and Brighton appears to have Christian Eriksen starting from the opening kickoff.
Erik ten Hag acknowledged after Manchester United’s season-opening match against Brighton that “it’s a hell of a job.”
When Brighton won at Old Trafford on the first day of the 2022–23 season, Ten Hag received a dose of reality that the Premier League is vastly more competitive than the Eredivisie.
Christian Eriksen played as a false nine in that game, which was begun by Harry Maguire, Fred, and Scott McTominay. Right winger Jadon Sancho was a member of the current, frequently chosen starting lineup, which now has an entirely different lineup.
In retrospect, that opening-day loss seemed inevitable given the players involved and the Seagulls’ success. Brighton went on to record the highest finish in their club’s history and Europa League football.
When the two teams met in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley, United had to wait another eight months to meet Brighton again. Despite chances being produced at both ends, the game ended 0-0 and required penalties.
The Reds’ victory in the shootout, which they won 7-6, made up for their loss to Brighton on the first day of the season. However, a few weeks later, the South Coast club had the last laugh as they finished the league double.
Luke Shaw handled the ball in the penalty area to allow a 99th-minute winner, and Brighton came out on top 1-0 at the Amex to clinch their first-ever league double over United.
That last-minute goal was a blow to Brighton’s season-long assertions that they were superior to United.
Although Brighton finished 13 points behind Ten Hag’s team in the Premier League standings, the manager Roberto De Zerbi, who has led the club forward following Graham Potter’s good work, will believe his team isn’t inferior.
With De Zerbi in charge, Brighton has a distinctive tactical approach, therefore it was interesting to watch Ten Hag adjust his team while facing them three times in a row last season, so no starting lineup was the same.
The lineups against Brighton are shown in the graph below in descending order starting with the first game in August.
On that image, Eriksen stands out right away because of his dramatic transition from playing as a false nine against Brighton at Old Trafford to struggling in the middle of the field at Wembley and losing his starting position by the game against Amex.
The 31-year-old made 13 Premier League starts in 2023, but only once did he play the entire game (against Arsenal in January). In the final six months of the season, he has only played for more than 80 minutes four times.
He appeared to be lacking in legs in the spring after recovering from his ankle injury, and this was especially evident against Brighton in the FA Cup semifinal, making his exclusion from the lineup at the Amex the appropriate call.
It wasn’t a surprise to see Fred play with Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes against Brighton on the road in the league after he took Eriksen’s place in the scoreless game at Wembley and his energy immediately boosted the team.
Despite evidence showing that Ten Hag would want to play someone else, the Brazilian, who joined Fenerbahce this summer, is no longer a possibility and Mason Mount is out injured, therefore Eriksen is expected to start against Brighton.
Although Scott McTominay of Scotland has had another successful international break, it appears that the management would choose to start the Denmark international instead of Eriksen.