Manchester United are currently in second place in the Premier League and a foot into the Europa League finals, and it would not be possible without the monumental presence and leadership of Harry Maguire in the heart of defence, who is starting to gain the appreciation of supporters and pundits.
Having played in every single minute of English football so far this season, the 28-year-old is yet to miss a game through injury or suspension, showing how reliable the defender has proven to be since joining Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in August 2019. Not only that, but his individual contribution has ironed out the team’s defensive issues, as he plays a vital factor in the side finishing within the top four in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson last managed the football club.
More importantly and recently, Maguire was one of the main players to lead a serious confrontation against the club’s owners and executive vice-chairman, as they entered the European Super League without making the manager and the players aware of the situation before it was announced to the public. Due to the backlash, it led Ed Woodward with no option but to resign from his position at the club, who has been under huge criticism with how he dealt with his transfer dealings over the years.
Over the last couple of months, the English international has hardly put a foot wrong on the pitch as he continues to build a strong relationship with the likes of Dean Henderson, Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof in the backline. Since the start of 2021, the Red Devils have kept nine clean sheets and conceded only 12 goals in 18 league games, with the defensive improvement shown in numbers.
When looking at the side’s defensive record in recent seasons, United conceded 54 league goals and finished in sixth-place during the 2018/19 campaign. The following season, in Solskjaer’s first full season at the club and with the much needed arrival of Maguire, the side conceded 34 league goals and finished the campaign in third-place. And at the moment, the team are sat in second place and have conceded 35 goals in 33 league games. On that basis, Maguire’s impact and influence on the team and the backline is second to none, even if he isn’t everyone’s type of standard centre-back.
The former Leicester City centre-back is a great example of a player who has become a victim of his price tag, as it took the Red Devils an amount of £80million to attain the defender from the Foxes, who was actually linked with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City before his move to Old Trafford had become official. His price tag is instantly raised if he produces an error or a mistake, and if he goes on to complete a dominant and strong performance, then he does not get the full credit and praise he deserves, as most people are typically expecting this of an £80million player.
For sure, his weaknesses are clear and it is something that cannot be hidden, from being caught out of position, inability to defend in one-on-one situations and lack of pace to cover his tracks independently. Though, his strengths are much superior when compare to his weaknesses, and once he is playing alongside a better partner in defence and with a natural defensive-midfielder in front of him, he could potentially be regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the whole of Europe.
Overall, Harry Maguire is an important player for Manchester United on and off the pitch, and he will truly be appreciated the day he is unavailable for a couple of matches due to suspension or injury. When you are one of the first players to be mentioned in the line-up, and you receive credit and respect from your team-mates and manager, then it does not really matter what is said by the supporters or the pundits, as their opinions on players and managers tend to change on a daily basis. Without his proactive defending, aggressive approach of nature and leadership ability, the side would be struggling to make the top four positions and would fail to progress in cup competition.