When Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave Harry Maguire the captaincy back in January, he thought it would take the England international’s game up a notch. For a while it worked, with the former Leicester star much improved after a shaky start to his Old Trafford career. But since the restart Maguire has struggled for consistency – giving the Red Devils a big defensive problem in the process.
Manchester United wanted to sign Maguire when Jose Mourinho was in charge, with the current Tottenham boss urging Ed Woodward to land the England international back in the summer of 2018.
In the end that didn’t happen, with Mourinho forced to settle for the arrivals of Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant instead.
United did finally succeed in signing Maguire last year, paying a huge £80million to bring the 27-year-old to Old Trafford.
For the most part, it’s been a successful signing.
Maguire has struck up a good connection with Victor Lindelof at the back, with the pair establishing themselves as Solskjaer’s first-choice defensive duo.
However, in recent weeks, the defender’s standards have slipped.
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And they’re beginning to cost United, who would be sitting comfortably in the Premier League top four had the 27-year-old not made a series of mistakes.
Against Tottenham, in the club’s first game back since the coronavirus crisis, Maguire was at fault.
The England international backed off Spurs winger Steven Bergwijn, allowing the former PSV Eindhoven winger to take a shot that squirmed under David De Gea.
Maguire made another error in the 5-2 victory over Bournemouth at Old Trafford at the start of the month.
On that occasion the centre-back was bamboozled by Junior Stanislas, who nutmegged the 27-year-old before shooting past David De Gea to give the Cherries the lead.
And, on Monday evening against Southampton, Maguire made another costly mistake.
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He was mocked by fans for appearing to mark Aaron Wan-Bissaka at the corner that allowed the Saints to leave Old Trafford with a point to their name.
Maguire failed to command the area and take charge of the box, instead standing by idly as Michael Obafemi scored at the death.
And, now, his form has given United a major problem.
Lindelof is a solid centre-back but question marks have been asked of the Sweden international, too, and whether he’s good enough to help the club win the biggest trophies on offer.
Waiting in the wings is Eric Bailly who, on his day, can deliver.
But the Ivory Coast international blows hot and cold too often to start week in week out – something Solskjaer is fully aware of.
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Phil Jones will be sold this summer, with United determined to get the England international off their wage bill.
And Axel Tuanzebe has struggled with injuries, meaning Solskjaer is unable to rely on the youngster at the current time.
Meanwhile, former Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley has warned Solskjaer that Maguire’s form is becoming a ‘major concern’.
“I think Lindelof is OK but for the money they paid for Harry Maguire, I tell you he is looking very cumbersome to me,” he told ESPN FC.
“If I was Solskjaer, that centre-half pairing would be a big concern for me.
“We know they’re not the only team. We know City are looking for centre halves, we know Chelsea are, Arsenal are desperate for them.
“All these clubs are desperate for these defenders and Manchester United are another club that are in that scenario.”
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