When Manchester United splashed a world record £80million on Harry Maguire from Leicester last summer, many an eyebrow were raised.
A fee only eclipsed by Liverpool’s pursuit of Virgil Van Dijk obviously drew comparisons between the two and there was only ever going to be one winner. The idea by many was that if Maguire was the defender that Ole really wanted, the club needed to just pay up and get it done. Much like the way Klopp refused to sign someone instead of Van Dijk and instead just waited until the deal could be completed, Solskjær should be given his first choice option no matter what.
I said it at the time and I’ve said it more recently though – why was Maguire Solskjær’s first choice?
At 6ft 4, he is obviously a huge physical presence. He is good in the air, comfortable with the ball at his feet and has leadership qualities. All of these attributes are things that the back line at Old Trafford were desperately missing. On the flip side though, Maguire is positionally not the greatest, he’s incredibly slow and in a one vs one situation his turning circle causes him severe problems.
At £80million, with the entire fee paid up front, Manchester United could have quite literally had any defender in the world bar three. Van Dijk, Aymeric Laporte and Raphael Varane were likely out of their reach, but you could make a strong argument that literally any other defender in world football would have been attainable if the club had put that money in front of a club. Matthijs De Ligt was a target for United and went for far less than that sum, to help justify my point in this matter.
The fact Ole persisted with Maguire, to me, is a problem. His best performances came as part of a back-three for England at the World Cup and while he was good for Leicester, they’re in the upper quarter of the Premier League without him this season having used someone already in their squad to replace him.
While it’s undeniable that Maguire has improved us defensively, that wasn’t exactly hard to do. In all competitions last year, Manchester United conceded 70 goals. SEVENTY. How could we possibly not improve on that tally?
That’s also not to say that we shouldn’t have signed Maguire at all either. That’s not what I’m saying. He just shouldn’t be the centre-piece of this, or any other, defence. He’s not the John Terry or Rio Ferdinand in any partnership. He, to me anyway, is the partner. He’s the man alongside that star defender who compliments them best and forms a duo with. As a stand-alone, individual defender Harry Maguire will never be the man.
Talks of Manchester United needing another centre-back this summer aren’t unfounded. They need to replace Victor Lindelof at the heart of the defence and with Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly constantly unreliable fitness wise reinforcements are needed. The problem is that the club spent £80million on Maguire last year so are highly unlikely to invest in a top defender for a similar amount that will likely be needed to attract them.
The club now need to use all their resources and unearth a star. Much like Ferguson wanted Raphael Varane as a youngster, Manchester United need a physical behemoth who can be nurtured into a top defender to go alongside Maguire and help where he falters. Currently there aren’t a lot of options out there in central defence but United need to put their scouting caps on and make the deal happen this summer.
At £80million, Harry Maguire isn’t the top level defender you’re supposed to get for that sum of money. United now need to find that defender for a considerably lesser fee to accompany their captain or a new cycle of dodgy centre-back partnerships will begin.