Manchester United club captain Harry Maguire started for the first time in 11 weeks against West Ham United on Sunday.
It’s a peculiar space to navigate for the captain who has experienced a drop in confidence and a fall from grace in recent times.
Maguire cut an uncomfortable figure, often looking out of sorts on the right (via The Athletic).
A hard-fought draw
The Red Devils failed to put on a dominant display against the Hammers but still managed to scrape a 1-0 win.
24-year-old Marcus Rashford headed home for United in the 38th minute on his 318th appearance and notched his 100th club in United colours in the process.
However, the second half saw United put under siege by the West Ham attack. Ten Hag brought on Scott McTominay in the final third of the game, opting to switch to a 4-3-3 formation.
The change gave the Hammers room to exploit and, with the added space, an incentive to attack.
As United entered the final moments of the game, legs tired, and Christian Eriksen’s well of creativity ran dry, allowing the opposition to impose themselves on the game.
Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea put in a stellar performance between the sticks for United, leaving West Ham players in disbelief that they could not find the back of the net.
Maguire under the magnifying glass
As the United defence looked to hold the fort against a barrage of attacks from West Ham, Maguire mistimed two tackles.
The Maguire of seasons past would have won the ball comfortably. Now, however, he is willing to risk a caution and rely on support from officials to allow United to get behind the ball and reset.
During this campaign, Maguire has had to accept that the left centre-back position is now reserved for new signing Lisandro Martinez, who has proven his mettle.
The Argentine is an exceptional tackler with superior mobility and sense of timing to Maguire. An adept passer, Martinez also allows the Red Devils to build from the back confidently.
Maguire will also have to adjust his game to accommodate Diogo Dalot. The Portuguese defender now often drifts into the center of the pitch, functioning as an extra midfielder.
Despite this, Dalot still put up some impressive defensive numbers against West Ham.
Nonetheless, the United boss praised Maguire’s performance saying, “He was magnificent, he was protecting the box and is a great player and shows how important he is for the squad.”
There is a pocket of the United faithful who will feel that this is little more than a show of solidarity from the manager.
What is for sure is that under Erik ten Hag, the United captain will have to adapt his game. A big part of that will involve rediscovering his confidence to help his teammates shore up the back line.
- Get all the match build-up, articles, news, puzzles, nostalgia and humour
- Online football content like you’ve never seen before
- No ads, no clickbait, no fake news – just 100% pure United
- Instantly delivered to your device with easy and secure online ordering
- Click Preview to see more or buy for just £1.25/$1.50