Manchester United return to Premier League action this weekend for the first time in a fortnight following the international break.
Their last outing saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side humiliated 1-6 at Old Trafford by Tottenham Hotspur and their former employer, Jose Mourinho.
Anthony Martial’s dismissal in that game, with the score 1-2 at the time, means the French forward will be suspended for Saturday night’s trip to St James’ Park to face a Newcastle United side that have had some good results to start their campaign.
Manchester United’s issues aren’t so much in attack though; they have five goals in their first three games of the 2020-21 Premier League season. It’s in defence where the issues lie – 11 goals conceded.
The Red Devils shipped three in their surprise loss at home to Crystal Palace in their opener before a penalty in the 10th minute of stoppage time earned them a 3-2 win away to Brighton & Hove Albion. They had conceded twice in the opening seven minutes after taking the lead versus Spurs before Martial’s red card.
Much of the talk heading into the season had been about whether Dean Henderson should replace David de Gea between the sticks. And whilst Solskjaer stuck with the Spaniard and the question continues to remain, the Norwegian manager’s bigger problem may be in the four that protect him.
The 1999 Champions League final hero failed to land a new centre-back during the transfer window that shut last week despite speculation Kalidou Koulibaly was going to arrive from Napoli.
That essentially leaves the United boss with three established centre-backs, a couple of youngster, and Phil Jones, who doesn’t appear to have a future at Old Trafford.
Throughout his squad rotation, Solskjaer has stuck with captain Harry Maguire throughout. Even when players were being rested, Maguire remained in the team. Even after his off the field problems over the summer, Maguire remains in the team. Even after a dreadful start to the season, it seems that Harry Maguire will remain in the team this weekend.
Maguire’s latest outing saw the centre-back dismissed in the opening half hour as England were surprisingly beaten at home by Denmark in the UEFA Nations League on Wednesday night. The 27-year-old managed to pick up two yellow cards despite Gareth Southgate’s side dominating much of the early possession. In fact, it was a heavy touch from the Manchester United club captain that led him into making a rash challenge in the opposition half to be shown his marching orders.
The United manager has rotated Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly to partner Maguire but yet to find his solution in front of de Gea. The question that has been on everyone’s lips though – when will Maguire be rotated out of the starting lineup?
This is the world’s most expensive defender we’re talking about. It seems as if that’s the reason the United boss won’t do it. Yet, watching Manchester United this season and last, many of the defensive errors start with Harry Maguire himself. From his poor positioning and lack of pace, the opposition have had great success against the United defender, as 11 goals against in three games show.
This weekend’s opponents, Newcastle, are probably hoping that Maguire remains in the starting lineup on Saturday night. Steve Bruce’s side have taken seven points from their first four fixtures of the campaign, scoring six goals in the process. Callum Wilson and co will no doubt fancy their chances against a greatly out-of-form centre-back.
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