Manchester United broke the bank in securing the services of Harry Maguire in the summer for a world record price tag for a defender.The 26-year old has represented his nation in a World Cup semifinal and emerged as one of the Premier League’s most coveted defenders for the Foxes following a £12 million move from relegated Hull City two years ago. It’s imperative to take note of the circumstances surrounding the player transfer without harkening only to the price tag.
Impending need for a Quality Centre Back
A key trademark of Sir Alex’s successful sides was a strong defence. Although the rosters experienced rotations in positions elsewhere, a reliable pairing like a Rio-Vidic personified his statement ‘defence wins you trophies’. His time did see the induction of then young and potentially hungry players in Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. They were expected to carry forward the mantle with the departure of the senior stalwarts.
Their failure to do so due to lacklustre performances riddled with injuries cued up purchase of a series of mediocre gap fillers in the likes of Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo both who failed to impress.
Eric Bailly arrived showing promise in his domineering debut season but failed to nail down his place with frequent trips to the treatment table.
The only bright spot in defence appeared to be an emerging star in Lindelof, who looked like the potential real deal.
But, the board’s inability or refusal to grant Mourinho his second centre back meant that United went into yet another season with a vulnerable defence that was inevitably exploited. What transpired was a disastrous campaign resulting in Mourinho’s infamous sacking in the middle of the season. United ended last season having conceded the most number of goals (54) in a single Premier League campaign in their history. It is here that the importance of bringing in Harry Maguire lies.
Not JUST a defender
The move probably came at the best possible time for Maguire right at the back of a World Cup for England that certainly drove his stock up. Ole yet again displayed his discipleship of Sir Alex in trying to build a team up from the back. The tying up of key players like De Gea, Lindelof, Shaw along with the arrivals of Wan-Bissaka and Maguire coupled with shipping out the deadwood justifies the intent.
Maguire doesn’t only improve the defence, but improves Solskjaer’s tactical style, minimises the lack of a quality midfield presence and provides his fellow centre back a little cushion.
His pace has its critics but it’s not often you see him outdone for pace. His reading of the game makes up for whatever he might lack in the speed department.
His aerial prowess earning him the name “Slabhead” definitely adds teeth to United’s strength in both the boxes.
At a time when the team finds itself devoured of results and leadership, a bold organiser at the back could be immense. A leader and a potential captain for Manchester United also brings with him a wealth of Premier League experience allowing him to settle in straight away.
Season So Far
United sit 10 points behind top 4 and 18 behind the league leaders. Currently 10th in the league, the team have conceded a goal a game on average in the league. He has played the full 90 in 14 out of 17 games for United this season keeping 4 clean sheets, with the last one coming against Partizan at Old Trafford. His game looks solid but for the odd error that has proved to be costly thus far. Every fault of his is subject to so much more magnified scrutiny thanks to his hefty price tag. In a young side, his leadership at the back has been crucial. A few releasing long passes from the back have been eye catching and refreshing. Higher returns from corners or free kicks is an area that remains open for improvement.
“The price of ability does not depend on merit but on supply and demand” – George Bernard Shaw
Most critics and fans believe that Maguire is good but not 80 Million good. It’s important to understand the current market scenario and the buyer-seller dynamics with the buyer in this case having the reputation of being desperate and one of the richest sporting entities in the world. Its likewise to how a bottle of drinking water would cost 5$ on a remote island compared to a few cents near your house. What’s important is that you drink water especially if you’re dying of thirst. Hence, the price tag illustrates how badly United need a centre back rather than the actual worth of the player purchased.
Pep Guardiola had himself ceded that Maguire was on his list for his quality and ability but was forced to rule him out for his price, as odd as that sounded coming from the aforementioned man.
Likewise, comparisons to Virgil van Dijk, his price tag and his impact is a bit blown out of proportion in my opinion. Van Dijk’s arrival has undoubtedly transformed Liverpool with their latest Champions League victory. It is however important to note than before van Dijk arrived, Liverpool had already become a solid side in other areas whereas Maguire is only one of the first few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle at Manchester United.
To Manchester United, a centre-back like Maguire could be the difference between Champions League football and otherwise.
Manchester United have paid over-the-odds for the Englishman, undoubtedly. But, it is more than just if you take into account that, without him, United could have been leaking goals without scoring any in return and that alone justifies the money spent. Jose Mourinho’s comment in the studio at Sky Sports makes all the more sense in this context. When asked about Maguire, he bluntly and with a laughing face said,“He arrived a year late.” Maguire’ early arrival could’ve been the job saver for Mourinho and a difference between a runner up finish and a winners medal in 2017/18 . Coming in as a tried and tested defender in the league, Maguire will be the lynchpin of United’s defence for years to come and a future club captain. Harry Maguire is no gamble but that bottle of water on the island; one that United have ended up paying a premium for.