Harry Maguire has his fair share of critics but there are also those who still believe in him, including, of course, England manager Gareth Southgate. However, Maguire’s two greatest advocates are probably the statisticians and himself.
Speaking after England’s 2-1 victory over Italy on Thursday, Maguire clearly implied that he is unfairly criticised and that, in fact, he improves Manchester United when he plays.
Asked if he feels properly appreciate (via The Times), Maguire replied ““For England, yes, I do.
“Obviously, last season was difficult for the club, but, listen, I’ve proven myself to Gareth, who works with a wide range of centre backs. He has the choice of all the English centre backs in the country and I play, every time I’m available, I’ve been in the team.
“I’m sure if you ask the rest of the lads they know what I bring to the team. I’m 30 years old but I shouldn’t really need to prove myself at this level.
“I’ve over 50 caps.
“I’m England’s top-scoring defender.”
Maguire did not offer an explanation as to why he thinks he has been booed by England fans on more than one occasion.
Having talked himself up as an England player, he then went on to make his case for being in the United side, saying:
“I’ve played nearly 200 times for Manchester United, I’ve captained the club for three years now, but I do also understand that when you’re the captain of Manchester United you do come under the most amount of scrutiny.
“Last season at club level, my performance wasn’t good enough, alongside everybody else at club level, not just myself struggled. Everyone else struggled.”
This is an interesting admission, as the skipper was adamant toward the end of last season that his performances were, in fact, up to par, saying “I wouldn’t be playing every game for #mufc in the starting eleven if I’d been playing bad every game or not playing well enough.”
Harry Maguire: "I wouldn't be playing every game for #mufc in the starting eleven if I'd been playing bad every game or not playing well enough. There's a reason why both managers have put me in the starting eleven every game." #mulive [@footballdaily] pic.twitter.com/U9r1S54Nds
— utdreport (@utdreport) April 19, 2022
And his assertion that “everyone else struggled” may be true, but he is the only one who topped the Premier League’s “most errors leading to shots” charts last season.
😬 Harry Maguire has committed the most errors leading to an opposition shot on goal of all outfielders since the start of last season in the Premier League
👹 He's not alone from Man Utd, as we dive into the worrying stats behind their defence 👇
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 22, 2022
He goes on to declare “my form’s been good this year.
“When I’ve played, in my last eight or nine starts for Manchester United we’ve won.
“So my influence is still there.”
To put that into context, The Times points out that “half of Maguire’s 24 United appearances this season have come as a substitute.”
It is true that the statistics tend to back up Maguire’s claims to being an asset rather than a liability. A fantastic 86.9% passing accuracy in the Premier League and a reasonable average sofascore rating of 7.0 per game, zero errors leading to shots and zero errors leading to goals are points in his favour.
However, as The Times’ Henry Winter goes on to point out in his article, what fans see with the naked eye and what statistics often cannot convey is a tendency to make glaring errors that cost points for both club and country.
The fantastic stats posted against Italy should be juxtaposed with Winter’s summation of the Italy goal, which he believed to be Maguire’s fault.
“As Maguire carried the ball out of defence here, Italy’s Domenico Berardi closed off the passing lane to Jack Grealish. The pass wasn’t on and Maguire’s attempt was way off target.
“Yet it was the 30-year-old’s desperate attempt to rectify that error which ultimately gifted Mateo Retegui, after Lorenzo Pellegrini’s clever reverse-pass, the space to apply the finish.
“Maguire’s lunge at Nicolò Barella left a hole in defence, and brought to mind the United defender’s red card against Denmark in the Nations League in October 2020.
“A second yellow card in the space of half an hour that night arrived when he lunged at Kasper Dolberg. It was rash, panicked, just like Thursday night. Confidence and composure — close bedfellows — are in short supply just now.”
Winter then goes on to mention three other occasions when Maguire made mistakes leading to a goal against England; against France in the World Cup quarter final, Iran in the World Cup group stage, and against Germany in the 3-3 Nations League draw last September.
United fans will have their own litany of examples of costly and downright clumsy Maguire errors, including many committed this season, despite his claim that “my form’s been good”.
It is this lack of self-criticism that is perhaps the most worrying aspect of the centre back’s demise. Admitting you have a problem is the first step.
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