Ole Gunnar Solskjær has indicated that Harry Maguire could miss Manchester United’s game at Newcastle on Saturday, saying the defender had “picked up a knock” and insisting his captain would be taken from the firing line only at his own request.
United’s manager addressed Maguire’s poor form as it emerged the club had triggered the one-year extension on Paul Pogba’s contract, which was due to expire at the end of this season. The move protects the value of the midfielder, who has said a transfer to Real Madrid would be a “dream”.
Maguire was part of a United rearguard routed 6-1 by Tottenham in the final league game before the international break and he then received a red card in England’s 1-0 defeat by Denmark at Wembley, being shown a second yellow on 31 minutes.
It is rare for Solskjær to volunteer information on any player’s injury but he said Maguire sustained an unspecified problem with England. There have been suggestions it would be in the interest of Maguire and United for the player to be rested.
“When Harry [helps] beat No 1 ranked Belgium it’s a normal day [yet] you get the headlines when you get a sending-off,” the manager said. “Harry has got great resilience, he wants to play and work his way [away from] the last couple of games for which he’s been criticised. [But] he picked up a knock just before he came [was sent] off. We’ll have a look at him today.”
Solskjær will not take a unilateral decision to give Maguire a break. “He’s a lad who doesn’t want to hide behind a red card or a bad performance; he wants to go out there and prove himself,” he said. “Then it’s up to me to choose him or not and if I want to take him out [of] the firing line. I haven’t considered that without him coming to knock on my door. I speak to him regularly and he’s been very positive in his communication.”
Solskjær batted away a question about Pogba’s latest voicing of admiration for Real and confirmed the extension to the 27-year-old’s deal. “Paul’s our player, he’s going to be here for another two years and sure he’s focused on doing his best for us,” he said.
Solskjær drew scrutiny for his decision to withdraw Bruno Fernandes at half-time against Spurs. There were suggestions the playmaker was unhappy at this, yet the manager said: “Bruno has lost two league games and came here in February. [But] it’s been two in quick succession. He’s not used to losing league games but welcome to Manchester United – this is what happens. [Elements are] going to try to create a division between us. But it’s not going to happen; this is a group that wants to work together and stick together.”
United, along with Liverpool, were drivers of the doomed Project Big Picture plan that would have supported the EFL and cemented power with the biggest clubs.
Solskjær said: “It’s a definite that we, as one of the bigger clubs, have a responsibility to protect the football pyramid and smaller clubs. We have seen lately the effect this pandemic has had. The key thing is we want fans back in stadiums, which will help other clubs, so I’m just glad talks have started.”
Facundo Pellistri and Edinson Cavani are not available to face Newcastle but Alex Telles, another deadline-day signing, could be in the squad.