Captain Harry Maguire
Manchester United captains receive more judgment than anyone else on the pitch. Within the past year and a half, Harry Maguire took his fair share of slander. Since the English center-back featured in every Premier League game since he joined Manchester United in 2019, mistakes were bound to happen. Hence where the criticism started.
The media dubbed him “a fridge”, and after his incident in Greece, matters grew worse. Now, Harry Maguire is the top scapegoat for Manchester United, but it’s worth asking, “Does Harry Maguire deserve this much scrutiny?” or better yet, “Where Would Manchester United be Without Harry Maguire?” The answer to those questions can be surprising. Below contains how Harry Maguire plays as the under-appreciated backbone of Manchester United.
Leading The Defense
The season prior to Harry Maguire joining Manchester United, the Red Devils let in 54 Premier League Goals, the worst amount of any team in the top 9. However immediately following signing Maguire, United improved to have the second-best defensive goals allowed ratio in the league. Last season, only Liverpool conceded fewer goals than the Red Devils. Under the Maguire-led defense, United allows an average of 1.015 goals per game, which happens to be a massive improvement from prior season. One of the main reasons for the improvement being Maguire. This season, he leads the club in aerial battles won (119), clearances (108), and interceptions (51). Maguire is the man who keeps the defense structured.
However, the rest of the defense struggled early on this season. The second-highest number of aerial battles won and clearances are 70 and 33 behind Maguire respectively. Without Harry Maguire, Manchester United cannot be in second place. Some argue though that the Red Devils are better off without Maguire and should prioritize signing someone to replace him. Yet, the problems in defense statistically show that the issue is not Maguire, but the center-backs he is paired with.
Wrong Center-Back Partner
Bailly matches up best with Maguire, but recently he is rarely fully fit. Meanwhile, Lindelof received the majority of nods to play in the back with Harry more than anyone else. However, the issue is that Maguire and Lindelof do not complement each other well. Maguire is strong on the ball and good at winning headers. Yet, he struggles against marking pacey forwards and requires a center-back partner who can do so. Lindelof is just not that. The “Ice-Man” is by no means a bad player, but he doesn’t fit the build United needs.
The vital change United is desperate for is a quick defender who can match up well on 1v1 situations. Give a quality (and healthy) partner to stop counter-attacks, Maguire will only improve. Harry Maguire makes mistakes, but mainly because United has asked him to do everything defensively. The solution for United is to allow Harry to shine at what he does best (winning loose balls and being physically imposing) by bringing in a center-back partner who is quick enough to support the defense on a counter-attack.
This season, Harry Maguire holds the current title for most passes by a single player for Manchester United. The possession runs through Fernandes and Maguire. While obviously, Bruno creates by far more key chances per game than Maguire, the Englishman’s role should not be ignored. When the midfield gets stuck, they look towards two players: Bruno and Harry.
Without Maguire, United lacks a defenseman who can hold the ball. Bailly and Lindelof are decent on the ball in their own respects but need a player like Maguire to control the majority of passes. Maguire is especially crucial when the goalkeeper is trying to push the play forward. Maguire allows De Gea and Henderson to have a safe option to pass towards.
Harry Maguire deserves some of the criticism he receives, but he should not be the scapegoat for Manchester United. The English center-back vastly improved United’s defense since he arrived in 2019 and is a strong reason for why the club made statistical leaps over the past two years. However, if Harry Maguire is to truly flourish, then he needs a quick center-back partner in the future.
Glory Glory Man United.
Written by CJ Szaz