JOE BERNSTEIN: Ten Hag has a selection dilemma for Manchester derby

Christian Eriksen’s man-of-the-match display in Man United’s win over Copenhagen has given Erik ten Hag a selection dilemma… he must now choose between bravery and pragmatism for the Manchester derby

  • Christian Eriksen made a major impact off the bench on Tuesday night
  • He has now put himself in contention to start Sunday’s Manchester derby
  • Follow Mail Sport’s new Man United WhatsApp channel for all the breaking news 

Christian Eriksen had to meet and greet Manchester United’s sponsors after being voted man-of-the-match in Tuesday night’s narrow Champions League win against FC Copenhagen.

His selection was both good and bad news for United.

Good because it showed the 31-year-old Dane is providing moments of quality once again after a disappointing start to the campaign.

Bad because he only played the second 45 minutes after coming on as a substitute during the interval. If he was the best player based on playing half the game, it doesn’t say much for the others!

There was a recognisable uplift in Manchester United’s performance once Eriksen was introduced for the more defensively-minded Sofyan Amrabat.

Christian Eriksen delivered a man-of-the-match display off the bench against Copenhagen

He is now pushing Sofyan Amrabat for a starting berth for Sunday’s Manchester derby

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The Dane cleverly found pockets of space, dictated the tempo of the game and his first-time cross for Harry Maguire’s winning header was absolute class.

Up in the TV broadcasting booth, United legend Paul Scholes acknowledged Eriksen had proved the difference against his countrymen.

‘He is a much better footballer (than Amrabat),’ said Scholes.

‘No disrespect to Amrabat, he’s a stopper, he’ll do his kind of thing. But he won’t build up play.’

A relieved Erik ten Hag added: ‘Christian is always positive. We did not have the football in the first-half and he brings football. Christian Eriksen makes the right passes.’

Like the best players, Eriksen made others around him more effective too, most notably fellow midfielders Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay.

However, the fact United are so reliant on Eriksen at this stage – two years after a cardiac arrest threatened to end his life let alone career – is troubling in regards to the lack of other options.

Erik ten Hag must choose between taking a brave or pragmatic approach for Sunday’s game

Casemiro, missing again after being injured for Brazil on international duty, is the club’s top scorer this season with four in all competitions but not noted for his creativity.

Mason Mount, signed for £60million in the summer on ten Hag’s insistence, has not impressed so far.

McTominay is a strange mix of goalscoring heroics – like his late match-winning double against Brentford – and rash behaviour, conceding penalties in United’s last two games.

Bruno Fernandes is captain and first name on the team sheet but might be trying too hard as leader. He is popping up in all areas of the pitch to the detriment of his previously outstanding goals and assists record.

Man United’s potential XIs to play Man City

TEN HAG’S BRAVE TEAM v MAN CITY: Onana – Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Reguilon – ERIKSEN, Casemiro, Fernandes – Antony, Hojlund, Rashford

TEN HAG’S PRAGMATIC TEAM v MAN CITY: Onana – Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Lindelof – McTominay, Casemiro, Amrabat – Fernandes, Hojlund, Rashford

In normal circumstances, Eriksen would now be a shoo-in to start United’s next game. Except in this case, the next game is against Manchester City, a team that will dominate possession.

It leaves Ten Hag with a dilemma. Does he be pragmatic and pack the midfield with destroyers and athletes like Casemiro, Amrabat and McTominay or let Eriksen be the playmaker and give City something to worry about as well?

He was peerless against Copenhagen but facing Rodri and company in the heat of a Manchester derby is a huge step up.

No doubt, United’s manager will think heavily on it over the next few days. In the attacking traditions of the club, remembered this week with the sad passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, many fans will hope Eriksen is in the line-up at Old Trafford on Sunday.


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