Home » Harry Maguire’s yellow card problem and why it’s a huge issue for Manchester United

Harry Maguire’s yellow card problem and why it’s a huge issue for Manchester United

by Derick Kinoti

As Manchester United beat Brighton at Wembley on penalties to book their place in the FA Cup final against Manchester City, a notable absence beyond those ruled out by injuries was Harry Maguire.

Maguire missed the game as he was serving a suspension which was levelled at him after picking up yellow cards in the fifth round of the competition against West Ham and in the quarter-final clash against Fulham.

The United skipper was also not available for the first-leg Carabao Cup clash vs. Nottingham Forest, as he was suspended due to collecting bookings in the third and fifth rounds respectively.

As The Athletic’s Carl Anka points out, Maguire has been booked nine times in just 27 appearances in all competitions for United this season.

To put that into context, he goes into the referee’s book once every three games.

The Athletic performed a deep-dive on all the bookings Maguire has received this season and there were six glaring circumstances that dictated the manner in which the Englishman picks up yellow cards.

As per Anka, some of the defender’s bookings come as a result of unfortunate or avoidable situations. A case in point is when he came on as a substitute in the Europa League against Sheriff Tiraspol and was booked after being judged to have made a foul when leaping to contest a header.

Anka notes that Maguire also gets booked for dissent. The Athletic point out instances in which the 30-year-old has lashed out at referees after blatant fouls, only for his name to be taken – not for the foul itself but for his passionate protestations.

Thirdly, Maguire’s bookings can be attributed to him engaging in unnecessary physical tussles brought about by his own poor judgement. In the FA Cup quarter-final against Fulham, he was shown yellow for roughhousing Aleksandar Mitrovic who was attempting to turn with the ball.

A similar incident took place in the Red Devils’ 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, where Maguire got into a duel with Taiwo Awoniyi. He wrestled with the Forest man before dropping him to the floor. A yellow card was brandished less than three minutes into the game.

Fourthly, Maguire’s yellow cards come due to what Anka terms as “bailout bookings” As per Anka, “These are bookings where Maguire makes a foul to “bail out” bad decisions made by himself, or United team-mates.”

These have come in the way of Maguire fouling a rival player to overcompensate for a bad pass, poor positioning or any other error that threatens David de Gea‘s goal.

The England international also gets booked a lot for cynical fouls designed to stop counter-attacks. It’s a well-known fact that the former Leicester City man is extremely fearful of pace and being caught out in transition with plenty of space to defend.

He resorts to cynical fouling as a solution to this perennial disadvantage.

Finally, Maguire’s bookings come as a result of the player choosing one kind of embarrassment over another. For instance against Arsenal at Old Trafford, Gabriel Jesus went past him with a brilliant piece of skill but rather than let himself be the subject of such humiliation, Maguire elected to bring down the Brazilian.

The Athletic adds in their analysis of the United captain, “Most of these yellow cards come from Maguire fouling an opposition player close to the halfway line, after realising he is about to be beaten by a faster/stronger attacking player.”

“These situations keep arising because Erik ten Hag ideally wants United to play with a higher defensive line, with sustained pressure from his forward line. However, their attempts to squeeze the space the opposition can play in can often go awry, leaving United’s defence vulnerable to counter-attacks when they lose the ball.”

“As such, Maguire – who is already uncomfortable playing in a higher line – often takes it upon himself to commit tactical fouls on opposition players and stop counter-attacks before they become too dangerous.”

Some of the Premier League’s best defenders including Rodri, Fabinho, Ruben Dias and Thiago Silva excel at tactical fouling but Maguire lacks the pace, timing and match-reading ability to make them without getting booked.

Maguire’s situation is not helped by the fact that he is so short in confidence, with his United career reportedly hanging in the balance. There are rumours that he is on his way out of Old Trafford.

The Athletic further says, “He has become a casualty of United’s growth this season in a way the club’s other centre backs have not. Martinez marries his faster running with excellent match-reading ability, meaning he often comes away with the ball in duels that Maguire typically loses. Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane are likelier to jockey an attacker away from goal before making well-timed tackles in less dangerous areas.”

Going forward, whether it’s for the season run-in or ahead of the next campaign, this is a problem that Ten Hag and certainly Maguire need to address.

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