When Harry Maguire arrived at Manchester United for a world-record fee for a defender, there was no doubt hope that he could help transform a defence that had conceded a hugely disappointing 54 goals in the Premier League last season – the worst record out of the top-six.
But whilst he has enjoyed a couple of stand-out games that have earned praise from sections of the United support – his performance against noisy neighbours Manchester City came in for a lot of love – the England international has failed to live up to his considerable price tag of £80m.
As per Whoscored, his average of 1.1 tackles per game puts him 11th amongst his United teammates with Ashley Young and Paul Pogba ahead of him in the rankings. And perhaps even more damning, is that his 1.7 interceptions per match is bettered by Phil Jones (2). Indeed, since the start of the Premier League season, he has only managed an average match rating above 7, on 11 occasions – less than half the amount of top-flight games he has played.
The last two performances Maguire has put in have been particularly disappointing, with a 6.62 rating against Liverpool, and a 6.76 against Burnley, making just two tackles combined. Whilst there will always be a hope that he will eventually come good for United, the time has come for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make a bold, but ruthless call on his big-money centre-back.
Having seen arch-rivals Liverpool spend heavily on bringing Virgil van Dijk to Anfield, and then watch him help the club to Champions League glory last season, United would rightly feel let down that the more expensive Maguire hasn’t had a similarly inspirational effect. The former Leicester man was labelled as “one of the best centre-backs in the game today” by Solskjaer upon his signing, but hasn’t shown anything like that kind of form.
Dropping him from the side can take him out of the firing line for the immediate future, and allow him to spend some time away from the pressures of the limelight. Whilst for United as a team that may not be ideal in respects to wanting to play your best team possible for every game, it could do the world of good for Maguire in the long-term if Solskjaer takes this course of action.
With the likes of Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly appearing to close in on first-team returns – the latter even played in a U23s game against Newcastle recently – this is the perfect opportunity for Solskjaer to show a bit of backbone and drop an under-performing Maguire. It’s a ruthless decision that has to be taken.