Christian Eriksen is one of Europe's finest young talentsAhead of Manchester United's Europa League tie with Ajax, we take a closer look at the Amsterdam club's highly-rated young playmaker Christian Eriksen.
Player: Christian Eriksen
Date of birth: February 14, 1992 (age 20)
Place of birth: Middelfart, Denmark
Height: 1.75m (5ft 10in)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Current club: Ajax
Former clubs: OB Odense
Eriksen has become a key player in the Danish national sideFor a player schooled at the famous Ajax academy and who now shoulders the expectation of the Danish nation, accolades come no higher than the great Johan Cruyff stating that Eriksen is "a player I really like with all my heart ... you can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup". However, daunting comparisons have persisted throughout the embryonic career of this supreme talent.
At just 20 years of age Eriksen has already become the heir apparent to Cruyff as the creative hub of the Ajax side - winning a trophy bearing the Dutch great's name when being crowned the Eredivisie's finest young player last season - and in November was crowned Denmark's Player of the Year to follow in the footsteps of the famous Laudrup brothers.
Eriksen - who likes to play behind the striker as a conventional number 10 but can also operate in wide positions - certainly boasts elements of his game that are reminiscent of his predecessors. If his passing is not quite Laudrup-esque just yet then it is certainly on the right track, while the way he tallies technical brilliance with a certain arrogance with the ball at his feet calls to mind a certain Dutch individualist.
It is no surprise, then, that ahead of Ajax's meeting with Manchester United the teenager from Middelfart, via Amsterdam, has firmly caught the attention. So much so that Sir Alex Ferguson, a reported long-term admirer, was willing to publicly discuss his interest in this very unique attacking talent.
"There's a lot of attention on the young kid, you know, the Danish boy," said Ferguson. "We'll see what he's like and obviously everybody is going to be watching him. Ajax have always been capable of producing great players, that's the great thing about that football club. When you think back over the years to the likes of Johan Cruyff and Ruud Krol, they were some players."
A 16-year-old Eriksen joined the great Ajax production line from Odense BK in his homeland in October 2008 and successfully soared through the ranks in Amsterdam, making his first-team debut in January 2010. At the end of his first season as a full professional - and having made only 15 league appearances - he travelled to the World Cup and was the youngest player to appear in the finals in South Africa when making two appearances as a substitute.
Eriksen matured even more during the 2010-11 season when becoming central to the Ajax machine and adding goals to his game, winning the Dutch Football Talent of the Year award in the process. His international career also continued to flourish as he assumed a regular place in the Denmark side, memorably excelling in a friendly against England in February 2011.
He dropped back down a level to compete at the European Under-21 Championships last summer as Denmark failed to impress in front of their home fans but has been at his best throughout the 2011-12 season, scoring once and claiming two assists in the group stage of the Champions League before Ajax were relegated to the Europa League along with United.
Analysis from Ajax's 2-0 win over NAC Breda in the Eredivisie on February 11
22' - Shows good control to chest down an awkward cross into the box and lay the ball off to a team-mate.
29' - Tries to prise open the NAC Breda defence to find Miralem Sulejmani cutting in from the left but his through-ball just fails to find its target.
38' - Finding himself with time and space in the centre of the park, Eriksen slips a pass to Dmitry Bulykin and surges forward to take the return ball, dart into the box and fire in a low effort that is saved.
59' - Bulykin touches the ball off to him by the penalty spot and Eriksen lashes a firm first-time effort over the bar with his left foot.
72' - Collects a pass 30 yards from goal, turns smartly and then executes a thumping drive which the goalkeeper parries away.
74' - Links up well with substitute Nicolas Lodeiro as he pulls out a trick or two, before lashing a shot over the bar from outside the box.