Harry Maguire’s sending off for England against Denmark last night poses a new selection headache for Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
According to The Times’ Matt Dickinson, ‘Solskjaer’s defence is a mess and Maguire has been part of the problem.’ The Norwegian’s pattern as Manchester United boss has been to stick by players when their form dips – David de Gea and Paul Pogba being notable examples – but sometimes it is actually kinder to a player to remove them from the limelight until they are more themselves again.
That might be the case for Maguire.
However well Maguire and those around him believe he is coping with the events of the summer, being Manchester United captain is an extra responsibility he could probably do without. Even legends such as Wayne Rooney would struggle when given the added pressure of the armband. Heavy is the head the wears the crown.
But to strip Maguire of the armband could appear to be more of a vote of no confidence than dropping him for a few games. Whilst dropping could be explained away – Solskjaer could simply say he’s ‘carrying a knock’ for example – relieving him of the captaincy cannot.
One of the curious claims for Maguire’s poor form is that he is forced to play for both United and England on the left side of defence. Coincidentally, however, Victor Lindelof played on the left side of Sweden’s defence yesterday and while that defence did concede three goals against Portugal last night, none of them were Lindelof’s fault and he was arguably the best of a bad bunch on the Scandinavian back line.
Indeed, Lindelof often played on the left hand side for Benfica and played on the left when selected to partner Eric Bailly against Brighton recently. He looks equally as comfortable there and it is strange that United have never tried to reverse his and Maguire’s roles. Presumably they have tried it in training and it hasn’t worked, but the match situation is always different.
Be that as it may, the fact is that, as Dickinson says, ‘Harry Maguire needs a break’ and is suffering ‘a crisis of form and confidence.’
For his own red card for England, as for Anthony Martial’s red against Spurs, Maguire did not even want to appeal against the ruling. Perhaps his attention is on another appeal – the one against his aggravated assault conviction in Mykonos – or as Dickinson says, ‘perhaps the red card almost felt merciful — the rock bottom from which he must try to recover — to a defender who must have joined up with England hoping that a change of scene, after difficult times at United, could be revitalising. So much for that.’
United have already conceded 11 goals in their first three Premier League games this term and loyal as Solskjaer is, he cannot afford to carry another passenger in his defence at this stage. Knowing Ole, he will laugh it off and stand by his man – but how long he can allow this to continue remains to be seen.