Manchester City’s dominance under Pep Guardiola has been staggering. Having won the Premier League for two consecutive terms, amassing 100 points in the 2017/18 season and 98 points in the last campaign, the Citizens are beginning to monopolise a division widely acclaimed for its competitiveness.
When you factor in two successive EFL Cup triumphs and their whopping 6-0 thrashing of Watford in the FA Cup final – completing their domestic treble last season – there is little evidence to suggest that their progress will halt.
Undoubtedly, Pep Guardiola – who has won 87 of his 114 Premier League matches – has propelled Manchester City into a relentlessly successful outfit, creating a chasm in quality between the club and their traditionally superior neighbours. Manchester United have been trophyless for the last two seasons, while Guardiola continues to contribute to his remarkable collection of honours as a manager.
Furthermore, given Manchester United’s failure to qualify for the Champions League and having failed to win the Premier League for the previous six years, it’s hardly the most attractive proposition for the game’s best players. Conceivably, the promise of success and the allure of Guardiola makes City an instantly more desirable option.
Reports linking Leicester City’s Harry Maguire with both Manchester clubs have raged on throughout the summer, but it appears the giant dressed in red have thrown their first punch.
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According to Sky Sports, United have tabled a £70m bid for the coveted defensive colossus, moving ahead of City and seemingly into pole position to clinch his signature. Sceptics will naturally cite United’s tangible fall in grace to formulate an argument which advises Maguire against a move to Old Trafford, but there is a compelling case to suggest it’s an ideal destination under the current circumstances.
City are ascending into unprecedented heights from the club’s historical perspective, while United are in steep decline – a familiar narrative since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013. United’s best Premier League finish during the post-Ferguson era has been second in the 2017-18 season, and even then they were 19 points adrift from Manchester City.
For these reasons, one would expect Maguire to favour City, and while The Sun report that the 26-year-old has his heart set on a move to the Etihad, a move to Old Trafford would arguably represent a better option for the Englishman.
With new-found success and a manager of Guardiola’s esteemed pedigree comes an obsession with improving every aspect of the team. The Spaniard has signed 14 first team players during his time in Manchester, seven of whom cost more than £45m to acquire – ample evidence of his eagerness to improve and mould the side in his own image.
But such is the quality of their depth that City now parade through that obsession, excellent players are liable to becoming discontent with limited involvement – as Riyad Mahrez can attest to.
Despite being City’s most expensive signing under Guardiola’s leadership, the Algerian has been left frustrated with a lack of consistent opportunities. City’s manager even confessed in a press conference in February that he was unhappy with his inability to give Mahrez more chances to impress – as reported by Goal.
“I am sad because he is training incredibly, he is an incredibly talented player but in this moment we have five strikers, for example the last games Leroy [Sane] hasn’t played either.
“We have incredible players, like for example Bernardo [Silva] and Raz [Sterling] are in top, top form and that is the only reason why, there’s no particular reason, like being upset or something like that.”
“He is a guy we are happy with, but unfortunately I am not kind with him, in the fact I cannot give him the minutes he deserves, so I’m sorry, that’s all I can say.”
If Maguire were to join City, he would be expected to match immense standards and deal with a squeeze in pressure that, with the obvious exception of the 2018 World Cup, he has probably never encountered in his career.
Manchester United’s need for defensive recruitment is far more pronounced than City, especially as they conceded 54 goals in 38 league games last season – the 11th best defence in the division.
United’s transfer strategy seems to revolve around a coherent attempt to breathe new, homegrown life into a club bereft of optimism, and one can envisage a player of Maguire’s standing playing a significant role in the Red Devils’ rejuvenation.
In keeping with the modern-day centre-half Maguire is comfortable in possession, but he blends that progressive style with old-fashioned robustness and aerial command.
Brendan Rodgers remarked on the defender’s varied skill set, as reported by the Mirror…
“Harry is a top-level centre-half, let’s make that clear, there’s no doubt about that. But there are still areas of his game he can improve upon – absolutely there are. He has age on his side. He can get better. No question.”
“What he already has is incredible pace. And, first and foremost, he’s a defender who enjoys heading the ball. How many times have you heard about defenders who can’t head the ball? Harry’s not one of those.”
“He can defend the box. What happens when you play for big teams is that you have to be comfortable on the ball. And he has that.”
When considering that Manchester City already have Aymeric Laporte and John Stones within their ranks – centre-halves renowned for their ball-playing attributes – there is a danger that City would become overloaded with defenders who exhibit similar skill sets if Maguire were to sign. Even Nicolas Otamendi, to a lesser extent, is regarded for being comfortable in possession – a prerequisite for any defender with Pep Guardiola at the helm.
At United, there’s a dearth of ball-playing centre-halves, particularly ones of corresponding quality to Manchester City’s defenders. If Maguire were to join the Red Devils ahead of City, one could envisage the 26-year-old becoming Manchester United’s most prominent and indispensable defender, and that’s a prospect which is difficult to turn down even in the midst of United’s decline.
As Brendan Rodgers identified, there is scope for Maguire to develop further and the former Hull City man has ample time to refine his game.
In light of United’s transition, with lessened expectations and greater freedom to impress, Old Trafford would be an ideal setting for the 26-year-old to continue his progression.