What's gone wrong for Harry Maguire at Man Utd?

·6-min read

Manchester United make the trip to Leicester City on Thursday on the back of successive Premier League victories, coinciding with captain Harry Maguire dropping out of the side.

Already under pressure in some quarters following chastening defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford in his first two games in the job, Erik ten Hag made the bold call to drop his skipper – as well as star forward Cristiano Ronaldo – for the subsequent wins over Liverpool and Southampton.

After claiming six points from six and letting in just one goal across those two matches, compared to six conceded in their first two outings, Ten Hag has no real reason to integrate Maguire back into his starting line-up for the King Power Stadium clash.

With Maguire set for a watching brief from the bench against his former side, Stats Perform looks at what exactly has gone wrong for the England international, and whether there is any way back.


OLD TRAFFORD BECOMES HARRY'S HOUSE

Maguire joined United in an £80million deal from Leicester in August 2019, a fee that remains the most ever paid for a defender. With that valuation comes pressure, yet the centre-back thrived in his new surroundings and was named captain the following January following Ashley Young's move to Inter.

The 29-year-old played the full 90 minutes in each of his first 71 Premier League matches, equalling Gary Pallister's club record, though he could not quite surpass him as he was substituted in the following game against Aston Villa with a minor injury.

Harry Maguire played 71 successive full league games for United
Harry Maguire played 71 successive full league games for United

Put simply, Maguire was a guaranteed starter and often repaid that faith, reflected in his stats across those first two campaigns.

Between the start of the 2019-20 season and the end of 2020-21, Maguire ranked second for interceptions (132), second for duels won (443), second for successful passes (4,127) and fourth for recoveries (436) among all Premier League defenders.

THE CAPTAIN OF A SINKING SHIP

Last season was a difficult one for United and by extension Maguire, who as captain had to front up to the club's issues. The Red Devils finished with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally (58) and failed to record a positive goal difference for the first time in over 30 years.

The 57 goals United scored last season was massively down on each of Maguire's first two campaigns at Old Trafford, but even more alarmingly, they shipped a whopping 57 goals across their 38 matches – the most they have let in in a single season in 43 years.

From being towards the top of several metrics in the two campaigns prior, Maguire was nowhere to be seen in the 2021-22 campaign. The Englishman's cause was not helped by missing eight matches, though even on a per-game basis his figures dipped in a number of key areas.

The number of goals conceded per 90 minutes went from 0.95 in his first season to 1.47 last time out; recoveries dropped from 6.2 to 5.3; duels won from 6.3 to 4.7; and successful passes from 57 on average to 48.

Harry Maguire's figures dipped last season
Harry Maguire's figures dipped last season

TEN HAG'S BIG CALL

Maguire has always had his critics, but the criticism aimed his way has become much louder over the past 12 months. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, the abuse went too far in April this year when Maguire received a bomb threat at his house.

The defender's hopes of winning over the fanbase were hit by disappointing displays in United's opening two games of the current campaign, coinciding with new recruit Lisandro Martinez being integrated into the team as the left-sided centre-back.

It had become clear that change of some sort was required, and Ten Hag made a huge call prior to the Liverpool match in replacing Maguire with Raphael Varane, and it is likely that the pairing will now be given a run in the side to strengthen their partnership.

There were plenty of positives to see against Liverpool, a game in which the Red Devils kept one of the most formidable attacks relatively quiet until Mohamed Salah's 81st-minute consolation, and also against Southampton, when keeping just a second clean sheet in 15 league outings.

FINDING A BETTER BALANCE

But are United a better side without Maguire in their back-line? In the 12 league matches they have started without him since the start of last season, they have won just four for a win percentage of 33.3 per cent, compared to 46.7 per cent with him in the side across 30 games.

In terms of goals against, however, United concede 1.6 compared to 1.3 with and without Maguire respectively. Ten Hag would not just have been looking at the goals conceded column when electing to leave Maguire out of his side, of course, with plenty of other factors to take into equation.

One of the reasons Martinez was signed is because of his ability on the ball, reflected in his 92.5 passes per 90 minutes in Eredivisie last season, with an 89 per cent pass-accuracy rate.

By comparison, Maguire averaged 56 passes a match in the Premier League and found his target 86 per cent of the time. It is not entirely fair to compare figures across divisions, though Maguire also lagged behind team-mate Varane (88 per cent) in terms of passing accuracy.

Harry Maguire's 2021-22 Premier League pass map
Harry Maguire's 2021-22 Premier League pass map

NO GUARANTEES GIVEN BY TEN HAG

Ironically, the timing of Maguire being dropped coincides with the team finally signing the defensive midfielder they have been crying out for in recent years, with Casemiro bringing ample experience from his time at Real Madrid.

Ultimately, Ten Hag has to find the right balance and has landed on Varane and Martinez to help keep out the opposition and build from the back, with Casemiro operating just in front of the defence.

Just two months on from confirming Maguire would remain skipper, the Dutchman has suggested the former Leicester man will have to bide his time before being called upon again.

"It doesn't mean when you are captain you are established to always play," he said. "Especially when you also have Varane in your squad. We have options. Varane: his stature is immense and in pre-season we took a decision to build him physically so he had a bit of a slow start.

"He was fit in the first games but in the first period of pre-season he wasn't always so we are happy we built him in that way."

If Ten Hag's arrival was supposed to provide Maguire with an opportunity to kickstart his Old Trafford career and return to the previous form shown with United and England, instead it has left him at something of a crossroads amid talk of a possible move away.

Back at the ground where he truly made a name for himself, Maguire must watch on and wonder when – or if – he will get another chance to prove he has what it takes to play a part under Ten Hag.