This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
When Harry Maguire made his £80m arrival at Manchester United – a world-record fee for a defender – the club were no doubt hoping that he could help transform a back-line that had conceded 54 goals in the Premier League last season.
Speaking at the announcement of his signing, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer declared the Red Devils have snared one of the elite defenders in football.
“Harry is one of the best centre-backs in the game today. He is a great reader of the game and has a strong presence on the pitch, with the ability to remain calm under pressure. He will fit well into this group both on and off the pitch.”
Despite only arriving in the summer, the 26-year-old has already captained the club on occasion this season, most notably forgetting the pre-match coin toss when he had the armband on for the Europa League clash against Partizan Belgrade. It was a truly comical moment, but one that perhaps perfectly symbolises his early struggles at Old Trafford on-the-pitch. If United thought all their defensive worries would disappear with his arrival, then they have sorely been proven otherwise.
In his time at former club Leicester, he was an authoritative presence, taking charge of situations, as evidenced by his one tackle and 4.9 clearances per game. At United however, both those key defensive numbers have taken a sharp drop, with his tackling stat halving. Against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, Michy Batshuayi’s equaliser provided a snapshot of Maguire’s indecisiveness. He looked to challenge the Belgian for the ball, and when he lost out, he failed to bring his man down and simply watched him power his way through for the equaliser.
Speaking back in the summer, the England international’s ex-teammate at Hull, Michael Dawson, remarked: “What makes him an £80m player is his distribution. He can bring the ball out from the back, he is comfortable in tight areas, he gets out of trouble. That is what makes him an elite player.”
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Unfortunately at Old Trafford, that has very much been a rarity. Maguire has completed 0.4 dribbles less than he did last season in the Premier League, and that perhaps comes down to a confidence issue. He simply hasn’t been his natural self, and in fact, one of the main assets of the 6 foot 4 man’s game is his prowess in the opposition box.
He struck three times for the Foxes the previous year, but this campaign has been littered with missed opportunities from set-pieces – most notably against Arsenal and Newcastle, when finding the back of the net could have been the difference between securing a win or avoiding a defeat respectively.
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All in all, Maguire hasn’t enjoyed the impact many would have initially hoped for him at Old Trafford. Though it may be early stages yet in his United career, the 26-year-old has to dramatically improve his form to make the club’s £80m investment in him seem worthwhile.