Since arriving at Manchester United from Leicester City as the most expensive defender in history in a £80 million deal, Harry Maguire has left fans with much to desire in terms of results and performances.
Facing fierce criticism from the media and fans alike, we shall do justice to the inventor of the “No Look Defending” style of play, and examine if he really is the problem.
Life Before United
Maguire began his footballing career coming through the youth team at Sheffield United, where he was named man of the match after coming on as a substitute against Cardiff City in the 2010-2001 season. However, Sheffield would go on to be relegated to League One that season.
After impressing at Sheffield, Maguire would move on to Hull City and be loaned to Wigan Athletic, where he would be made into a first-team regular and be voted as Hull City’s Player of the Year, by both the fans and the players.
Maguire would then sign for Leicester City in 2017, and would play in every minute of the Foxes’ 2017-2018 season. He would be awarded with the player of the season award for his showings at Leicester City, which prompted The Red Devils to launch a world record breaking bid.
Most Expensive Defender in History
After United withdrew their initial bid of £70 million for Maguire, the Red Devils upped their offer to £80 million in July of 2019.
The fee surpassed the £75 million Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk in January 2018, making Maguire the world’s most expensive defender. The transfer was completed on 5 August, with Maguire signing a six-year contract with the option of a further year.
Life as a United player
Life as a Red Devil started well for Maguire, with his debut being a 4-0 win for United over Chelsea, and being crowned Man of the Match.
On 17 January 2020, he was named as the new club captain by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær following Ashley Young’s departure to Inter Milan. Nine days later, he opened up a 6–0 FA Cup win against Tranmere Rovers by scoring his first goal for United. He scored his first Premier League goal for United on 17 February against Chelsea in a 2–0 away win.
However, the good times Harry Magure had would not last for long. Under Solskjær and now Ralf Rangnick, it would be fair to say that he has not been delivering the results expected of him.
There have been countless clips of him producing disaster-classes that you would expect from a random guy playing on your local football field than the most expensive defender in history.
United fans have gone so far to compare him to Phil Jones, who has just recently played his first game after 2 years out of action. Fans and the media alike showered praise on Jones, calling his performance against the Wolves “better than Maguire’s entire season.
A Different Perspective
Paul Merson, former Arsenal player, has spoken out in defence of Maguire.
Maguire has certainly had his critics but former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson sympathises with the United captain. “I feel sorry for Harry Maguire, I don’t think they play to his strengths,” he told Sky Sports.
“The players on the pitch are letting him down, he needs more protection.
“I know people say ‘oh he’s £80m’ but I don’t care – you get someone running at you on a consistent basis and it’s a big old pitch Old Trafford, you don’t want to be coming out.”
Merson went on to criticise those sitting in front of Maguire in midfield. He added: “Harry Maguire, you know I said from day one, I thought it would be a little bit of a struggle playing on the half-way line.
“I thought he’s not blessed with a lot of pace but at the end of the day he still has to get protection. I don’t care who you are as a centre-half, their holding players don’t sit as the sitters, they’re all over the place.
“They’re having a shot on the edge of the box, over on the left, right, you’re a holding midfield player you sit in front and protect the back four.
“I don’t care if you’re the best centre-half in the world, if you keep getting run at and there’s a lot of space in the channels you’re going to have a hard time.”
Merson also said back in August that United duo Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane could forge a partnership reminiscent of the one between Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
The former Portsmouth midfielder went on to hail Varane as the “signing of the summer in the Premier League” and claimed that the Frenchman could transform United into title contenders.
Speaking in his column for The Daily Star, Merson wrote: “Raphael Varane will turn Manchester United into title contenders — he’s the signing of the summer in the Premier League.
“I think it’s as tight as it’s ever been this season and there’s four teams who could win the league.
“United weren’t one of them but Varane changes that. I think that’s a major signing. With all the class and experience he brings with him from Real Madrid, I think he’s going to have a massive impact.”
While Maguire certainly has had his shocking moments, we believe that he is indeed a quality player. Manchester United as a whole have been on decline for a while, and it will likely remain that way until the main cause has been nipped in the bud.
Until then, Maguire or not, we don’t expect seeing the Manchester United from the Fergie era