It took Christian Eriksen less than 11 seconds to make an unforgettable statement on his return to the lineup, showing how much Spurs have missed his presence of late.
Eriksen is the lone Tottenham starter blessed with an artist’s creativity and an entrepreneur’s vision.
Though his opening goal, the third fastest in Premier League history, had more to do with anticipation, canniness and, as his gaffer put it, a teachable sense of belief. Talking about belief, his goal – which he finished with the killer’s instinct – injected Tottenham with exactly that.
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Eriksen’s goal, taken in context with his overall performance, was a mere drop in the ocean. The masterful maestro made six key passes according to Who Scored, but it felt like he was ripping apart Manchester United’s defence like a butcher’s blade through bone every time he had possession.
Eriksen played a first-time ball to Harry Kane in the first half, delivered a stunning free kick that Eric Dier headed over and threaded the needle in the second half, putting Son Heung-Min through on what should have been Spurs’ third.
It reminded me of his performance against Ireland in the World Cup playoff qualifier, when he scored a hat trick while concurrently breaking a nation’s collective heart. Sure, he didn’t score against United, but his performance had the same creative spark, youthful energy and decisive dominance.
But last night’s showcase came against one of the world’s best clubs, not a mediocre nation whose hopes of making the World Cup were more aspirational than realistic.
United, even after being exploited by Spurs, still lay claim to the stingiest defence in the Premier League, having kept a clean sheet in four straight encounters before last evening’s match. Only their Manchester counterparts have conceded as few goals.
The dazzling Dane, after two weeks off through illness, looked fresh and full of life. Maybe it was burnout that weakened his immune system and led to him contracting the flu. Regardless of what caused the sickness, it looks like a case – based on his supernatural display against the Red Devils – of short-term pain for long-term gain.
If Eriksen continues in this rich vein of form, Spurs will be guaranteed a top four spot to go along with a deep run in the Champions League.