Erik ten-Hag, Dynasty or Blip.
Welcome my friends, to a new era of Manchester United. The Erik ten-Hag era. With every new change in regime comes a renewed sense of hope coupled with a catechization led by skepticism. While there are a thousand burning questions on the lips of every United fan, the one I feel is most paramount to our club’s success is; what is to become of Harry Maguire?
In the wake of the Woodward aeon of ineptitude, the nature of our club captain remains a divisive topic.
Whomever is chosen to lead this historic club bears the burden of past great captains such as Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Mark Hughes, Brian Robson, and so the illustrious list continues…
To be a Manchester United captain is so much more than leadership. It’s an intangible sixth sense, an undefinable drive for success, loyalty to your teammates and manager, and a wholehearted endearment to the club and fans. So many United players have foundered at the attempt to assume the mantle of Manchester United captain.
Harry Maguire is Bearer of our Burden
But heavy is the head that wears the crown.
So I ask, in this light, should Harry Maguire maintain the honor and burden of Manchester United captain?
It would seem that ten-Hag thinks so. In the short time since I began writing this article it has been widely reported that our new manager has elected to allow Maguire to remain at the helm. Thus, we must change the question to; why is Harry Maguire going to remain captain?
I have little doubt in my mind that the majority of United fans, if asked; should Maguire remain captain on merit alone? The answer is overwhelmingly NO.
Maguire; the Question Wrapped Inside and Enigma
Frustratingly or encouragingly so, Maguire did frequently reminded us of his abilities when playing for England. Not to mention his performances on countless occasions during his first two seasons under Ole were exceptional at times. But this is where my positive opinion of Harry Maguire ends.
He is timid in one-on-one situations and has terrible recovery speed. He has the most disconnected and standoffish captaincy style I have ever seen. The man whinges in the press all the time and never takes any personal responsibility. Apparently Harry was also at the center of several dressing room leaks. And according to more dressing room leaks, his idea of dealing with his differences with Ronaldo was to alienate him.
His antics on social media are even more incriminating. Harry liked a Cristian Ronaldo post about having to take a wage cut for failing to qualify for the Champions League, which was seen as sarcastic at the time. And he was all to happy take drunk pictures with fans the night Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked.
These are only a few examples of the type of character revealing decisions made by Maguire.
A good player Maguire may be, but as captain this man has no sense of what it means to be a leader and is completely oblivious to his shortcomings as a captain.
So why will he retain the armband? It’s certainly not because of his leadership qualities.
Maguire was Thrust into a No-Win Scenario
Honestly, there are too many reasons Maguire will predicably remain captain. The sad bit is that so few of these reasons are football or character related.
First off, whatever Ole saw in Maguire that made him think he was captain material is beyond me. He had no experience as captain with Leicester City. While Kane and Henderson had assumed the England captaincy. So really, he had no qualifying experience what so ever with the armband with any team. Yet, he was essentially purchased to be our captain and handed the armband almost from day one.
This sounds like a lot of the other Glazer era hires and signings. Hiring bankers to run a football club, coaches with little to no experience in the top flight, and sanctioning a move for a player purchased just to wear the armband.
With no firsthand knowledge of our team, coach, or club Harry was thrust into the most criticized position in all of football. The Manchester United captaincy. He was set up to fail from day one, yet the club relied on their hopeful naivety. A gamble that clearly did not pay off.
Another Failure from the Front Office
Whether or not Maguire had the potential to be captain material, he has shown since his signing for United that he is not the right kind of captain for us. And this should be nothing to be ashamed of. But, what man really has the humility to recognize this and step aside with grace and understanding?
On the surface this would seem like yet another characteristically terrible decision by the United hierarchy. We can’t possibly know if Maguire would be a better player if he had never been given the armband. But I cant imagine him being more terrible than he is now.
So, for better or worse, I am here to tell you that there is good reason to keep him as captain…Unfortunately.
Leave it in the Past
Not least of which, ten-Hag is a new coach and will want to make his own assessment. He knows little of the player dynamic at Carrington, so why rock the boat until he has a better impression of the lot of players he has to work with.
What’s more, the argument has been made that if Ole brought him in to be captain, Rangnick decided to keep him as captain and ten-Hag is following suit, then there has to be something there. Something intangible or behind the scenes that we as fans are not privy to.
In some sense we should trust that if three coaches agree he should be captain then maybe he should be. But I find this kind of blind reasoning naïve. We as fans are meant to accept a decision being made simply because the last guy made the same decision so therefore it must be correct? Hardly.
Isn’t making the same mistake repeatedly, expecting a different result each time technically defined as insanity?
Harry Maguire, the Best of all Evils
Maybe I am being too cynical. In any case, I still do believe that, for now, Maguire must remain captain.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block with taking the armband away from Harry is whom do we give it to?
Ronaldo may have been a candidate, but he’s kicking up so much smoke in the transfer market that I don’t feel he has the right mindset to be Captain for us. Consider the following.
The Cristiano Ronaldo Conundrum
When Ronaldo first left United he kicked up a fuss for the better part of two years before he got his move to Real Madrid. Now, justified or not, here he is again making noise, angling for a move out of the club.
When he saw a lack of ambition from Juventus he bitched in the media for a move, and when Real Madrid couldn’t afford his wages anymore he left his boyhood dream club again leaving a path of media discontent in his wake. Point is Ronaldo gets what Ronaldo wants.
Simply put, I don’t feel, and I am assuming ten-Hag agrees, that a captain is a player that perpetually has one foot out the door. Or a player who cares more about his own success then the team’s cohesion. His presence clearly divides the squad, perpetuating the clique environment.
This division into social groups led to so much discontent and conflict in the dressing room that players gave up playing football because they had divided themselves so much. Not really a guy you want as captain. Sorry Ronaldo.
We Dont Talk About Bruno, No, No
Some say give it to Bruno. I say maybe in a year or two. Right now Bruno’s attitude on the field can be especially volatile when he isn’t performing well. With time comes wisdom, with wisdom comes leadership.
Right now Bruno clearly wants to lead this team to a new dynasty of success. I believe this whole heartedly. And I believe in the long term he can be a great captain. But his method of leadership on the pitch is too confrontational. Once he calms down in a few years and starts leading more by example and less by shouting he would be my pick for the next United captain. Sorry Bruno, give it time.
Give it Big D?
My favorite candidate for the moment is David De Gea. If it where up to me I would strip the armband from Maguire and hand it over to Big D immediately. He has clearly matured into a leader in this team.
He seems to command respect from the dressing room and is now the longest serving member of this United squad. He’s also the only player left in the squad to have “recently” won the Premier League with United and have experienced the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson and Edwin van der Sar.
So why is David not captain? Alex and John outlined it pretty well on a recent pod. David is not the kind of keeper that fits into a ten-Hag system. In many ways the modern game has passed David by and he has done little to adapt his game over the years. Though that doesn’t mean he still cant adapt.
Sorry Big D, it Wasn’t Meant to Be
I hate saying this, but while his abilities saved us so many points last season, his limitations cost us a lot of points as well. He isn’t commanding in the box which is part of the reason why we conceded so many goals from set pieces for so many seasons.
His inability to play out from the back forces our centerbacks and midfielders to drop deeper to receive the ball. This makes it hard to press high up the field and leaves gaps in the midfield for the opponent to fill and block our attempts to transition the ball forward.
Last season United gave up almost a third of their goals losing possession of the ball while transitioning from defense to attack. I am sad to say it, but De Gea is a big part of that problem.
My point is, as much as I am a big DDG fan, the decision to not give him the captaincy is an indicator that he might be moved on at the end of this season. Ten-Hag will want his captain to be a long-term decision. If he wants to sell David for a more modern and versatile keeper then David is automatically not going to be given the captaincy.
Who’s Left? Harry Maguire
Alas, we are at the end of the candidate list of captains. Maguire is all that is left simply because he is our current captain. Sure, this is a lot of what ifs? and personal speculation and analysis. But, I have yet to hear an argument more logical.
Not having a better option is never a good reason to keep a captain, but it is a reason that in United’s case is very real. The only other option to replace Slab Head would be to buy a player, in the same way we bought Maguire, with the intention of handing him the captaincy.
We all know how well that worked out last time. Its never a good idea to assume a player that has little experience playing for a club is in any way capable of being Captain immediately.
Oh, the Politics
There is also no small amount of politics involved in Harry Maguire remaining captain. From the Glazer’s and Murtaugh’s perspectives Maguire is an £80 million asset. So, it is very likely that a big part of the conversation about the captaincy was about what would happen to Maguires confidence if he was stripped of his leadership roll.
Maguire has proven his time at United has seriously overinflated his ego. He has also proven that his giant ego gets far too easily bruised. Yet another characteristic you don’t want when choosing a captain, but an unfortunate consideration when deciding whether to keep a captain.
Again, if I put my self in the shoes of our horrid upper management and ownership, I would be thinking that if Maguire is stripped of the captaincy after having a terrible and demoralizing season it might further spiral his poor performances. Imagine the following likely scenario.
The Potential for a Harry Maguire Spiral
Maguire has the captaincy taken away. His poor performances continue to the point he no longer plays regularly in the starting eleven. Now your stuck with a very expensive player on very high wages who was brought in as a readymade captain, broke transfer records and almost won a major trophy with England, who is hugely underperforming.
But, he’s so shite now that you can’t sell him for a quarter of what we paid for him. While nobody wants to assume his massive wages. In short, it is in the club’s best interest to get Maguire back to his very best, whether to sell him for a premium or to play him.
But placing a significant roadblock in the form of relegating him to the mere masses, won’t get him any closer to that goal.
Until he can be sold for something the Glazers find acceptable, we need to get his value back up. Getting him back to his best is what’s best for United. Not to mention that carrying the label of captain is a huge up sell when placing him on the market.
The Lesser of All Evils
For now, it seems that ten-Hag believes that the lesser of all evils is to keep Maguire as captain.
The most likely scenario that I can foreshadow is Harry will remain captain for now. Ten-Hag will see how Maguire doesn’t fit into his system as the season progresses. Harry will slowly make more appearances on the bench rather than the starting line up. Then, Maguire will likely be put into the shop window next summer.
And the hope would then be that either Bruno or De Gea has proven themselves to be worthy captain material to our new Manager. I can also see a scenario where Christian Eriksen comes in this season and does well enough to warrant taking the armband once we sell Maguire.
No matter which scenario you see panning out most, it is all still dependent on Maguire being sold next summer. And I think if you asked anyone, in an ideal scenario Maguire would return the armband with respect and humility and refocus on his own game. Maybe there is something of a career to revive here.
The Armband Crushed Harry Maguire
I liked him when we first bought him. When he initially signed we desperately needed a player like him. For too long had our defense been reliant on Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo. We needed grit in our back line, a dominator in the air, and a no nonsense tackler. Maguire had all of that. What happened?
I think he crumbled under the weight of the captaincy and England’s Euro loss last summer. Such a shame, he could have been a great United player. We had lost Ashely Young (our previous captain), Antonio Valencia (also wore the armband) and Ander Herrera whom many of us thought would succeed Young, all the same summer we bought Maguire. We were out of leaders.
So was it really a terrible experiment to give the armband to Harry and see what happens, no.
But Maguire’s is a failed experiment and barring a miracle it’s time to move on. Let’s just hope I am right in that we only have to endure his limp leadership for one more season.
I hope Maguire can re-find some good form, and maybe learn a thing or two from ten-Hag. Perhaps he can go on to be a great servant for United. Just not Captain. I say good luck and good riddance. But for now we are stuck with the red devil we have.
Glory, Glory Man United
Be the first to comment