Manchester United were about to enter the 19/20 season on the back of some alarming statistics. The team had experienced its worst season defensively since 1978-79. The Reds conceded more goals (54) than they had played matches and going on the worst clean sheet record in the last 45 years of their history. United were unable to keep a clean sheet in 13 consecutive matches.
It was more clear than ever that the old guard of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could not stand anymore and a change was needed. Victor Lindelof needed a partner.
Enter Harry Maguire.
Maguire’s transfer fee surpassed the £75 million Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk, making him the world’s most expensive defender. A lot of question marks were raised over his transfer and expectations due to the £80m price tag were immense.
He won the Man of the Match award in his debut against Chelsea in a 4-0 win. It should be noted that he joined the club a week before they played Chelsea.
Since then, Harry Maguire has galvanized a Manchester United team that would have experienced bleak chances of getting a Champions League spot with him putting his mark on the back four and reducing the goal conceding ratios.
Maguire is the best defender in terms of carrying the ball forward up the pitch — doing it on more occasions than any other defender in the Premier League this season.
Solskjaer identified the England international as a centre-back who is comfortable enough to take the ball out of defence with the ball at his feet. And up against attacking players, Maguire is ranked the 4th best player in the league with moving the ball forward. Those ahead of him in the charts include Jack Grealish, Wilfried Zaha and Adama Traore. Maguire is the only central defender in the top 10, having carried the ball 6187 yards this season.
Maguire’s performances against Leicester City (H), Manchester City (H) and Chelsea (A) proved that he can make up for his weaknesses. Maguire was deemed to be ripped apart against Jamie Vardy when United met for Leicester City at Old Trafford but he ended up having a 7.5/10 performance according to whoscored.com. Maguire took the sting out of Vardy’s pacy attacking runs.
Against Chelsea, he scored a header at the Bridge retaining his goal threat as a dangerous defender in the box and provided stability throughout the game at the back.
Against Manchester City, he was a little sloppy. But, he managed to put that past him and donned the back four as a leader by getting United over the line with a clean sheet. The former Leicester City defender also completed the most passes (38) in a red jersey.
Another great leadership quality of his was portrayed when he was supposed to be off the pitch in January for a hip injury but he continued to lead the team by consuming painkiller injections.
As every player, Maguire has had his difficulties as well. He was rated 3/10 in the ill-fated 2-0 defeat to Arsenal being found guilty of conceding fouls in key positions. His three main weaknesses remain low speed, 1v1 situations, and concentration gaps.
With Maguire’s help, United managed to keep 13 clean sheets. The Reds conceded 36 goals this term- a 33% reduction from last term. Only Liverpool (33) and Manchester City (35) conceded lesser goals.
Notable Stats Ranking First Against Top 6 Defenders:
- Highest Pressure Success Rate: 39%
- Errors leading to goals (0)
- Most Interceptions (59)
- Most Aerial Duels won (150)
- Accompanied with second-most clearances ( 201) and second-most ball recoveries ( 342)
On 17 January 2020, he was named as the new club captain by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær following Ashley Young’s departure to Inter Milan.
Nine days later, he opened up a 6–0 FA Cup win against Tranmere Rovers by scoring his first goal for United.
He scored his first Premier League goal for United on 17 February 2020 against Chelsea in a 2–0 away win.
On 27 June, after the 3-month delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Manchester United’s FA Cup run resumed with a quarter-final tie against Norwich City which finished 2–1, Maguire scoring the winning goal deep into extra time.
Maguire played in every minute of United’s 38 game Premier League campaign, becoming the first outfield player to do so for the club since 1995.
Maguire’s contribution this season is unmatched. However, things could improve. Maguire cannot do it alone. United need defensive reinforcements this summer.
If Chris Smalling and Phil Jones leave the club, United are expected to make a couple of signings. United missed out on Gabriel, however, there are more opportunities. If Maguire is partnered with a better pair, United’s defense could improve marginally.