As the dust settles on the worst result of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Manchester United so far, Harry Maguire is far from the only problem at the club.
The manager himself is once again proving that he is not up to the job. Marcus Rashford continues to frustrate with lackluster performances (as do numerous members of the squad) and a lack of options on the bench only profounds these issues. Limited action in the transfer market makes this even worse.
After yet another alarmingly poor showing from the club captain against Tottenham, however, surely even his most devoted fans will be running out of excuses for the Englishman. United have now conceded 11 goals in their first three Premier League games, and that partly stems from issues at centre back.
So what is it that makes Maguire so painful to watch at the moment? For starters, there is his positioning. I’ve lost count of the number of occasions over recent weeks where Maguire, either due to a lack of pace or sheer laziness, has failed to block crosses he should have.
All too often when an opposing team is counter attacking, Maguire looks lackadaisical when getting into position. He has a bad habit of not checking his shoulder for runners off the ball, and therefore doesn’t know where to position himself to stop balls entering the box. This often leads to criticism of Victor Lindelof when he loses his man, but he needs a lot more protection from his partner.
Maguire has to sharpen up in these situations. He doesn’t get much stick for this side of his game in the media because it doesn’t, strictly speaking, go down as an error. However, surely Solskjaer has to force him to work on these situations.
Maguire’s silly mistakes are also becoming something of a regular occurrence. Today’s defeat to Tottenham showcased a number of them; most people know that his attempted headed backpass leading to Spurs’ opener would have been scolded at U14s boys club football, never mind at Old Trafford.
The England defender also failed to stand in front of Harry Kane’s quick free kick which led to Heung-Min Son’s first goal, and again failed to block the cross which led to his second later in the game. In short, Maguire could have done better for at least three of Spurs’ six goals today.
He has to cut these errors out of his game. David De Gea rightly received stick from fans and the media last season for these high profile errors, and Maguire should shoulder the same responsibility. He simply has to be more solid if United are to improve at the back.
Maguire has also shown himself to be extremely unreliable at taking chances from set pieces. Over the past year or so, Maguire has been presented with a vast number of opportunities from corners and free kicks and yet has only taken a handful. For a man of his size and with his heading ability, he simply has to do more.
Set pieces give teams opportunities to grind out victories in games where they perhaps haven’t played to the best of their ability. Virgil van Dijk has a knack for scoring big goals from corners in games where Liverpool are struggling; Maguire doesn’t offer that and United are often made to pay. Maguire should be his side’s main threat in these situations, but offers very little.
It’s also a worry that he appears to be undroppable. He played every single minute of United’s Premier League campaign last season and has done so again this year. It’s also telling that Solskjaer didn’t even drop him for the side’s Carabao Cup opener against Luton – despite switching up the rest of the starting eleven.
Perhaps this is because of his price tag, but at the moment it looks as though Maguire could do with a spell out of the side. It’s hard to tell if his poor form is down to jaded legs, but perhaps some time out of the spotlight could do him some good.
Manchester United fans will be nervous about the fact that Maguire appears to be getting worse. His poor run of form shows no sign of slowing up any time soon, but he’ll need to arrest this slide at some point if he wants to help United climb back up the Premier League table.