Home » Manchester United should keep embattled ex-skipper, Harry Maguire

Manchester United should keep embattled ex-skipper, Harry Maguire

by David Abraham

One of the big themes of Manchester United’s summer will be the fate of embattled former club captain, Harry Maguire.

Maguire’s troubles as a Manchester United player are well-documented, and as the summer transfer window opened, it appeared that he would certainly be on his way out.

The 30-year-old, who first rose to the limelight with Hull City and eventually Leicester City, has been with the Reds since 2019 when he was made club captain shortly after his arrival.

His transfer – for a whopping £80m, came on the heels of a strong 2018 World Cup showing, where he captained England through to a Croatia-inflicted semi-final defeat.

In his first season, Maguire showed the value he could bring to a United team, starting all 38 Premier League games. (Stats taken from Sofascore.com)

In the season prior, Man United had suffered its worst defensive record in decades, conceding a shocking 54 goals. Maguire’s arrival helped bring some solidity, with United conceding only 36 goals in the 2019/2020 season.

Unfortunately, in the past few seasons, the negatives appear to have outweighed the positives for Maguire.

Ironically, he was a major part of Ralf Rangnick’s Man United team that would eventually achieve a new low, conceding a record 56 goals in the 2021/2022 season.

Following the arrival of Lisandro Martinez, Maguire has rightly found himself relegated to the bench.

And over the past weekend, it also emerged that Maguire has been stripped of United’s captaincy, which coming on the back of United’s very public quest for a new centre back, further underlines just how much of an outsider Maguire has become at Old Trafford.

On the surface level, the logical thing to do might be to sell him and aim to recoup as much of the £80m outlay as possible.

However, at 30 and with his reputation at its lowest, a sale is not likely to bring the returns that the club would want. The alternative would be keeping him around, and finding some use for him.

Arguably, this would be the smarter move for the club given the circumstances.

The biggest factor to consider is the fact that the Red Devils are strapped for cash. With a reported budget of £100m-£150m to spend on players, Erik ten Hag must prioritise those positions that need the most immediate reinforcements.

Arguably, centre back is not one of these. Alongside Maguire, United currently have Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane, and Victor Lindelof as their main centre back contingent, with Luke Shaw able to fill in for Martinez when needed.

Any new centre back acquisition will not likely go straight into the first team, and would likely be used as a squad option. Given the previously mentioned budgetary constraints, this should make a new centre back signing much less of a priority than other positions, such as striker.

Additionally, contrary to the prevailing public opinion, Maguire is not a bad player. His good form at Hull and Leicester, away with England, and in the early days of his United career, prove that he does have the ability to play.

The biggest challenge for him will be adapting his game to suit Erik ten Hag’s philosophy and tactics. Whereas Maguire is a conventional centre back, with his main strength being his aerial dominance, Erik ten Hag is near-fanatical about modern defending.

The Dutchman demands a defensive unit that is able to play out from the back at a high level of proficiency – a demand that has already played a big part in bringing an end to David de Gea’s 12-year reign as United number 1.

United’s defenders, under Ten Hag, will also need to be adept at playing a high line, something Maguire typically struggles with.

But while he may not be the best at these competencies, the idea that he cannot serve some function at United is without merit.

The Reds will go into the 2023/2024 season in the enviable but tricky position of competing for trophies on four fronts.

The club will need to have some depth, and a core group of four first-team centre backs – Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Maguire – is just about adequate.

The likes of Maguire and Lindelof will come in handy when United need to face lower-level opposition or are playing in lower-priority competitions, or in the event of injuries to one of the main centre-back pairing, as frequently happened last season.

Whatever the reason for Maguire’s spectacularly poor form in recent seasons, there’s still a good player in there and he deserves a chance at redemption.

And since United will almost certainly not be able to recover the funds invested in bringing him to Old Trafford, selling him at a cut price only to acquire another backup player may not be the best use of the club’s resources.

The player himself has shown some awareness of his shortcomings and has put in the work to rectify them – spending his holiday away in Portugal, doing thrice-a-day sessions with Premier League legend, Ricardo Carvalho, as The Daily Mail reports.

United should keep Maguire for now, using him as a squad option, while devoting the club’s meagre transfer budget to more pressing areas of concern, such as landing a genuine quality striker.

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