Manchester United have another Juan Mata on their hands

Juan Mata left United two years agoJuan Mata left United two years ago
Juan Mata left United two years ago
He won't get to play in the position he wants to and could leave Man Utd in the summer transfer window

There could well be some mixed feelings for Christian Eriksen when Manchester United travel to face Brentford in the Premier League this weekend.

It was Eriksen's form at Brentford that earned him a move to Old Trafford two years ago, but his lack of playing time this season makes you question whether or not he made the right choice. Last week, he admitted he was 'unhappy' with his reduced role, but wasn't going to kick up a fuss about it either.

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The 32-year-old was a breathe of fresh air to a United midfield that lacked creativity and control and was arguably their best player during Erik ten Hag's first few months at the club. Yet even before an injury against Reading in the FA Cup, his form had began to dip. He was only supposed to be a supplementary addition to their squad but quickly found himself undroppable in the starting line up, so there is little surprise that his performance levels suffered.

It all appears to have caught up with him this season. Eriksen has featured for just 116 minutes across all competitions since the start of the year and has fallen well down Erik ten Hag's pecking order. He has been an unused substitute in six of their last seven Premier League outings.

He hasn't been done any favours by Kobbie Mainoo's recent breakthrough, which in itself points towards one of his biggest challenges at United. A key reason he has struggled is because he has been played out of his best position. Eriksen isn't suited to the link up role in midfield that Mainoo has excelled in this season and would be better if utilised as an attacking midfielder against weaker opposition when there is an onus to breakdown a stubborn defence.

He is effectively like a new Juan Mata, who possessed excellent technical ability in his final years at the club, but who was rarely able to demonstrate it because of how he was utilised in the side. Due to Bruno Fernandes' monopoly on the attacking midfield role, the Spaniard was most often deployed in a wide position, which did not suit his skillset and exposed his physical shortcomings in the Premier League.

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The great irony is that after Mata had announced he was leaving the club he was used as a No.10 in a convincing 3-0 home win over Brentford and was superb in the role. Mata was two years older than Eriksen is now when he finally departed the club, but the same outcome is looking likely this summer as United look to freshen up their midfield with a younger profile of player.

United will not stand in his way if he wants to leave the club and the Danish international is clearly eager to play more regular football as he enters the final few years of his professional career. His reduced role at club level is tougher to stomach while he remains an integral part of the national team set-up, Eriksen played the entirety of Denmark's draw with Switzerland at the weekend and grabbed an assist from the bench in their victory over Faroe Islands on Tuesday night.

He will feel that he could still do a job at United if given the chance to play in an attacking midfield role, but with so much at stake in the final weeks of the campaign, that simply won't happen unless there is an unforeseen injury crisis.

Just like Mata, it would be sad to see such a talented player leave the club, but they probably wouldn't miss him too much either.

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