Harry Maguire’s position in the Manchester United team is not guaranteed, Erik ten hag has warned.
Maguire was dropped for United’s match against Liverpool on Monday, a game in which Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez performed heroically at centre back.
This provoked a number of questions at the press conference ahead of today’s Premier League match against Southampton as to what the manager’s intentions are for Maguire going forward.
“That doesn’t mean when you are captain that you are established to play always, especially not when you also have Varane in your squad,” Ten Hag explained, before going on to wax lyrical about the Frenchman.
“First, we have options and … Varane, his stature is immense. In pre-season, we had to build his physicality, so it was a bit of a slower start, and he was fit in the first games but in the first period of the pre-season, he wasn’t always, so we’re happy we built him in that way.
“You see that when the team needed him, he was really there and his profile, his stature, what he won in the past shows he can really contribute to this team.
“For the team, there is competition, and you need it, we have to cover so many games and we can do that in several constructions, see from game to game what we need. That can be a construction from Liverpool, but also in the second half at Brentford, we played with Varane and Maguire in the centre, so there are many options.
“I forget now about injuries, Victor Lindelof did really well in pre-season so I am happy he will be back on Sunday in the squad, so we will have another option. Internally, we have competition and that’s good and I think top teams need that.”
This was the second time this week that Ten Hag explained that he would rotate his defence, but of late he has specifically been talking up the qualities of both Varane and Lisandro Martinez rather than Maguire.
When MUTV asked the Dutchman about describing Lisandro as a warrior, the boss said:
“It’s great, so that’s the way he is.
“So others get stimulated by it.
“And not everyone is the same … but we want that, we want a fighting team.”
💬 No matchday is complete without a word from Erik!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 27, 2022
There is a sense coming from both interviews that Varane and Lisandro will be the boss’s first choice partnership, which at the presser begged the question of the captaincy.
The journalist asked “If Bruno, who is going to play most games, has the armband, does a point come where you have to say that he is the captain because he is playing most games?”
“I’m not looking so far, we are only one game, we have a little group,” Ten Hag replied.
“Harry quite clearly, Bruno is one of them and I think Bruno did quite well in his role with the captaincy, he was captain by example.
“He brings so much energy to the team, in and out of possession, so I was really happy with his role and performance.”
This is already a shift from the start of the season, when the boss said Maguire is the captain and he saw no need to change it. His words clearly suggest that the captaincy is in a transitional phase where he is allowing it to be fluid before making a firm decision a little further down the line.
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