Harry Maguire is a liability for Manchester United, however, a key summer signing could prove to be his salvation.
Manchester United could go into the summer knowing full well that it was their defence that cost them a legitimate chance of winning the Premier League title.
While the end of the campaign is still some time away, United have shot themselves in the foot numerous times so far, unable to hold onto positions of strength.
It comes as little surprise then that the club is keen to reinforce their rear-guard in the upcoming summer transfer window.
Most of the narrative this season has been about bringing in a dependable partner for skipper Harry Maguire. If that is United’s solution, they are surely asking themselves the wrong question.
The wrong target?
Maguire is a good player, but the fact that he is the club’s best defender is down to the lack of ability (or fitness) of those around him rather than him emerging as a towering colossus. While the Englishman has his moments, he is nowhere near the dependable defensive rock that United need.
As skipper, the world’s most expensive defender and an Englishman, Maguire’s deficiencies are often overlooked. Nothing short of a battering ram in the air, he can be mistaken for someone attempting to footloose in high heels on the ground.
Maguire has often stood out in some of United’s worst defensive displays and not for the right reasons. He has often been just as guilty as those around him as United struggle to keep opposition attacks quiet.
The draw at the weekend was just the latest incident where Maguire switched off but a teammate of his got marked out for blame. With the game deep into stoppage time, United were closing in on a precious three points that would have kept them alive in the title race.
Everton, however, had other plans and spoiled United’s party with their last throw of the dice. While one could argue that Victor Lindelof or David de Gea could have done better, it was in fact Maguire who played the scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin offside.
Rather than take his frustration out at the assistant referee, Maguire would have done better to take a long hard look at himself and realise he had let his team down once again.
The burden of leadership!
The 27-year-old is not a player who takes the opportunity by the scruff of the neck. He is more often than not a passenger when his team needs him to step up and be counted.
In many ways, he reminds one of Captain Sobel from the HBO miniseries, ‘Band of Brothers’. A dutiful skipper who says and wants to do the right things, but is found lacking when it comes to application.
There should be serious questions asked regarding Maguire’s ability to command the United backline. Not because he joined the club from a lesser side or because he has been relegated before in his career.
After all Virgil van Dijk joined Liverpool from a Southampton side struggling in 15th spot. In a way, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should take a look at what Liverpool are doing, even in the midst of them having what appears to be a meltdown.
Jurgen Klopp took over a Liverpool side that lacked leaders at the back and in the Dutchman he brought in just that. It is no coincidence that he prefers to play Jordan Henderson or Fabinho at centre-back if needed. Both players are leaders who can help organize a defensive line that functions as a unit.
While playing them out of position has weakened them as a whole, it is clear that the German recognizes the need for leadership in a crucial area of the pitch.
United’s foray into the free-agent market last summer saw them sign Edinson Cavani on deadline day. The Uruguayan’s arrival has helped them overcome a noticeable dip in the performance of Anthony Martial.
The Red Devils could once again plug a massive gap at the back by bringing in another potential free-agent next summer-Sergio Ramos. However, the catch being, he takes Maguire’s spot in the starting XI.
Despite his age, Ramos has a good few years left in him and arrives as a man capable of leading not just the backline but the team as a whole. A serial winner, he expects the same out of himself that he demands of others.
Ramos is a beast in the air and also offers more than Maguire with the ball on the ground. While he has lost a bit of his pace, he is better at recovery when compared to the United skipper.
Maguire’s lack of pace has seen him get caught out on a number of occasions. He becomes an easy target for pacy attackers especially when it is common knowledge that he turns slower than the titanic when confronted with an iceberg.
This has also seen him pick up a number of bookings as he attempts to recover his ground. In fact, the United skipper has been carded quite a bit in comparison to those that the club have been linked with of late.
With Ramos potentially available on a free, United can get the leader they lack while also retaining the core strengths Maguire brings onto the field. More so getting Ramos on a free ensures they do not dip into the transfer kitty put aside for another defender.
Bringing in the Spaniard by no means ends Maguire’s career at Old Trafford. He can learn from the veteran defender and mould himself into the player he wants to be. There is much that the Englishman can offer United but unless he works on his deficiencies, he will continue to be part of the problem.
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The Spanish Tom Brady?
The Glazers took a gamble by bringing in a presumably washed-up Tom Brady to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers side that finished third in the NFC South in 2019/20. The veteran’s experience proved the catalyst to them going on to win the Super Bowl a year later.
Ramos who is currently out injured with a Torn Meniscus is expected to be out until April. United have every right to be worried about his fitness. However, it is a high-risk high-reward situation that might just pay off.