Analyzing Harry Maguire’s first league start in 11 weeks – ‘magnificent’ or uncomfortable?

Manchester UnitedThe club captain is currently the fourth choice for his preferred position.

Sunday’s 1-0 win West Ham United seen the return of Harry Maguirepremiering premier league start since the 4-0 of his club humiliated at the hands of Brentford.

It was a scrappy victory for Erik ten Hag’s men, who slipped past Marcus Rashfordscored with a header in the 38th minute (his 100th for the club), but spent much of the second half under the bombardment of a series of West Ham crosses. United are getting better at using the ball and sometimes have areas of sustained attacking pressure, but often lose their temper in the later stages of games when Christian EriksonThe influence of is fading.

Replacement of Ten Hag in the 61st minute, withdrawal Anthony Elanga for Scott McTominay and by changing to a 4-3-3 form, United ceded territory. Eriksen’s substitution in the 79th minute for Fred invited a wave of attacks from the opposition.

Much has been asked of United’s back five to prevent a promising win from turning into a disappointing draw. Reports in Spain claimed David de Gea was omitted from the national team’s 55 provisional players world Cup team due to weakness with the ball at his feet, but he made a number of solid saves in the second half to show there is more than one way for a goalkeeper to prove his worth. “We have a huge goalkeeper. Really composed and in control,” was Ten Hag’s verdict at full time, and United are better for a De Gea who is well protected and able to play to his strengths.

But one player currently unable to play to his strengths is Maguire, who had what could be described as ‘solid’ performance against West Ham (in the presence of Gareth Southgate)

United’s defense under Ten Hag works differently to that in previous seasons, and Maguire has to adapt to the right centre-back rather than his preferred position on the left of the couple. Once the busy ‘dog-like’ defender, harassing the man in possession, Maguire’s primary duty on the right is martial space, while Lisandro Martinez now does the majority of the defensive work.

Maguire looked uncomfortable down the right on Sunday, particularly when he retreated against a fast forward, but is unlikely to return to his favored side as Tan Hag calls the shots. Martinez is a superior tackler, more mobile and with a greater sense of timing than the Englishman, but also has phenomenal passing ability which allows United to advance the ball from deep.

In the Europa League against Sheriff Tiraspol last Thursday, Ten Hag paired Maguire with his familiar centre-back partner Victor Lindeloff, but once again kept the Englishman on the right, rather than reverting to his setup from previous seasons. If Maguire is to be a starting option for United this season, he will have to adapt to playing to the right of any centre-back pairing. To adapt, he will have to learn to delegate the majority of defensive duties to Martinez.

Maguire will also have to trust Diogo Dalotwho turns into a very different full-back from Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The Portuguese right-back thrives as an inverted full-back, drifting in central areas during preparation to operate as an auxiliary midfielder. Dalot’s attacking ambition meant there was often space outside of Maguire that West Ham tried to exploit. On more than one occasion in the first half, Maguire found himself having to delay runs with a counterattack Said Benrahma. Fortunately, Dalot is diligent when defending the back post; West Ham’s sustained pressure in the second half saw a number of crosses delivered into the space behind Maguire. In the moments when the centre-back couldn’t make a header, Dalot stepped in.

Maguire was an important and consistent presence in United’s 2019-20 and 2020-21 squads as he took individual responsibility for an often unstructured defence. In the more composed setup of 2022-23, he must adapt to playing in a team that sees his aggressive tackling and ball carrying as a bonus rather than a necessity.

As the legs wore out in the second half and United found themselves overwhelmed by pressure from West Ham, Maguire twice attempted cynical fouls. The first saw him and his United team-mates pause and wait for a yellow card from the referee, only to lose the ball in continued play. The second saw Jarrod Bowen Nutmeg Maguire, who would then check the West Ham winger before shaking his figure in disagreement that it was a foul.

The Maguire from previous seasons was able to time tackles like these correctly, winning the ball without any interference from match officials. The less certain Maguire of 2022 regularly turns to the referees as safety cover, believing a warning and an opposition free-kick are valid punishments to stop an attack and give United team-mates more time to retire .

“He was magnificent, he was protecting the box and is a great player and shows he’s important to the team. I’m happy for the team and Harry Maguire, we got the clean sheet,” Ten Hag told About his full-time captain Maguire’s performance will do little to appease a subsection of United’s fan base, who would prefer him to be sold, but he underlined his quiet importance to the club. United team.

Ten Hag doesn’t need the version of Maguire who was so impressive in the 2020-21 season, but he does need the centre-back to step into his new role with some of his old confidence. injury to Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof’s illness leave Maguire and Lisandro Martinez as United’s main centre-back options (Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe pursue their own separate recoveries). The United captain builds from a place of low confidence, but he can become the player he was, if he trusts himself and his teammates.

(Photo: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

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