We want to take a closer look at what happened to Harry Maguire…
In 2018/19, Manchester United slumped to a sixth-placed finish, conceding more goals than all of the teams above them. So bad was the goal-conceding that Wolves, Everton, and Leicester were ranking directly below them.
In response, the club spent the summer trying to improve their defence. And to do so, they signed Harry Maguire for £80m, making him the most expensive centre-back in the history of British football.
Four years later, Maguire is no longer an automatic starter for Erik Ten Hag and is the subject of frequent social media mockery.
On a superficial level, we can measure Maguire’s waning status through his declining appearances. In his first season, he started in all 38 Premier League games for the Red Devils. In his second and third seasons, during which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked and replaced by Ralf Rangnick, he started 34 and 28 games respectively.
Most recently, in Erik Ten Hag’s inaugural campaign at the club, he made just 8 starts and another 8 substitute appearances.
To add a layer of confusion, he has managed to retain his place in the England national team during this period, for whom his performances have been much higher.
So what’s the problem at Manchester United, then?
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A Closer Look at what happened to Harry Maguire
Maguire’s value at Manchester United is clearly diminishing, given he’s the club captain, has a contract that runs until the summer of 2025, and wages of around £190,000 per week.
The big contrast was the lack of stability around Old Trafford. For England, he has been playing under the same coaching staff continuously, and enjoying the public support of the head coach, Gareth Southgate. He has often played alongside John Stones, who is also one of his close friends.
However, at club level, it has been different. Unfortunately for Maguire, he joined United at a time when they were undergoing some sort of transition.
This transition was both in the sense of style and personnel. Between 2019 and today, he has played under four different coaches, each with their own tactical imperatives. As well as a changing cast of teammates.
According to a report by The Athletic, upon arriving at the club in 2021, “Cristiano Ronaldo’s personality overwhelmed many of those who had previously been growing in prominence at United.” Naturally, that would include Maguire.
In addition, the same report also revealed that during Ralf Rangnick’s reign, “Ronaldo made it clear to the German that he would prefer the team did not include Maguire.”
Understandably, the atmosphere at the club has changed several times since the Sheffield United academy graduate joined, and also have been the voices in the dressing room.
Things have also been difficult for him away from the pitch. In the summer of 2020, during a family holiday in Greece, Maguire and his brother spent two nights in police custody for offences that included attempted bribery, repeated bodily harm, and violence against public employees.
He would later be found guilty in court and receive a suspended prison sentence despite denying the charges.
Nevertheless, this saga was hardly an ideal preparation for his second season at United. And, his struggles would not only become technical but in time, hamper his confidence.
According to football journalist, Carl Anka, Maguire is at his best operating in his favoured, left-side centre-back position. Playing from the left suited his ball-carrying abilities, and when in possession, it allowed him to better protect the ball.
In addition, it also helped United compensate for their ball-progression issues in midfield and the conservative pairing of Scott Mctominay and Fred.
Nonetheless, his career would take an ultimate nose-dive in the Autumn of 2021. In particular, when he got dispossessed deep in his own half for the first goal in a 4-2 loss to Leicester City. The following week, he was also culpable in three separate goals in United’s 5-0 capitulation to Liverpool at Old Trafford.
This then became a cycle with United tactically dysfunctional and often outnumbered in midfield and counter-attacking situations. As a result, Maguire often became overwhelmed.
Eventually, his confidence dropped, and with it, his sense of timing in tackles and he was to never really recover from that slump in form.
The arrival of Erik Ten Hag…
Adding to Maguire’s misery was the arrival of Erik Ten Hag in the summer of 2022. The Dutchman would give him a chance that backfired in United losing their opening two games that culminated in an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Brentford in London.
Ten Hag would go on to sign Lisandro Martinez from his former side Ajax for £57m. This became proof that all hope in Harry Maguire had been lost and a return to his favourite left-side centre-back role seemed unlikely.
Due to Ten Hag’s squad rotation policy, Maguire would occasionally get chances but it was his poor performance against Sevilla in the Europa League that put the final nail in the coffin. He ended the season with 9 yellow cards in 27 all-competition appearances in a campaign that described a player clearly ill at ease and short on self-belief.
Harry Maguire now finds himself as the third choice in both centre-back positions. From there, it isn’t easy to see how he will regain his reputation at the Theatre of Dreams.
What’s next for Harry Maguire?
The 30-year-old has been linked with moves to Tottenham, Newcastle United, and Aston Villa. Moreover, Harry Maguire’s England spot could be under threat after Gareth Southgate voiced his concern over the defender’s lack of minutes at Manchester United.
“Harry is captain of an incredible football club so that is a difficult situation, he will obviously be frustrated not to play as much as he would like but I think he has handled that really well, he has publicly talked well about supporting the team,” He said.
The future of Maguire, who signed for United from Leicester City in 2019 for £80 million, is somewhat up in the air. It seems unlikely the 6ft 4in defender will be the first choice at United next season, and although he is eager to stay put, a parting of ways could be in the best interests of both parties.