Gary Neville feels Manchester United’s lacklustre showing against Newcastle on Sunday owed largely to the absence of Christian Eriksen, with the Red Devils lacking guile without the creative Dane.
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The summer signing has been an integral part of Erik ten Hag’s team since he took over but missed the goalless draw due to illness, with United mustering just two shots on target in the absence of their main playmaker.
Neville feels the result and performance underlines how important Eriksen has already become, with Fred, Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes struggling to replicate his craft and creativity.
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, he said: ‘It didn’t feel like a good performance from United. Eriksen didn’t play and it looked like they missed him.
‘They had Fred, Casemiro and Fernandes, and I think when they’ve been doing really well – apart from at City, who are just a phenomenal team – Eriksen has been a big player.
‘And when he doesn’t play you maybe realise how big a player he is, because he connects and glues the team together.
‘He’s got that pass through the lines very quickly, he sees things, he looks over his shoulder, he’s scanning all the time.
‘It’s Paul Scholes that told me that by the way! Not through my own punditry, but you know that’s the case.
‘It allows Fernandes really and him [to share the creative burden]. You don’t just fall upon Fernandes, you’ve got two of them then.
‘And I just thought the balance was wrong today in midfield.
‘It’s difficult, we’ve got these gantry monitors we’re watching on, but it just felt like it wasn’t quite the same fluidity that we’ve seen with [Eriksen] in the team.’
Ten Hag was asked at his post-match press conference if he felt the side lacked fluidity without Eriksen and rejected the suggestion.
‘But we have a squad and you see the last weeks we have more than 11 players who can contribute and also this team played really well,’ he replied.
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