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There are few better candidates to lead Solskjaer’s revolution

Why United must go all out for Maguire

In Summary

• For United – who conceded 54 goals last season – he is primarily viewed as reliable, winning the majority of his aerial duels and barely making mistakes leading to goals.

• Maguire is a go-to man for Southgate these days, something cemented after a stellar World Cup in Russia last year, and it is not difficult to see why interest has since intensified following a strong season.

England's Harry Maguire in action with Netherlands' Memphis Depay
England's Harry Maguire in action with Netherlands' Memphis Depay
Image: /REUTERS

It is testament to the sort of character Harry Maguire possesses that shortly before his England debut, Gareth Southgate had to remind the defender that yes, he really did belong at international level.

That was in October 2017, before a win over Lithuania, and the rise since has been nothing short of extraordinary and ­— to Maguire’s mind at least — somewhat unexpected. Pep Guardiola identified his physicality as something Manchester City are missing in their back four without Vincent Kompany. Manchester United have made the first serious offer this summer, a £70million bid that Leicester will not entertain.

 

MAGUIRE’S STATS

Leicester City

Apps: 76

Goals: 5

Assists: 3

Yellow cards: 15

Red Cards: 1

The Foxes want more, somewhere closer to £90m for a player whose value continues to increase and development has been on a steady incline for quite some time. Maguire is a go-to man for Southgate these days, something cemented after a stellar World Cup in Russia last year, and it is not difficult to see why interest has since intensified following a strong season during which his stature, and responsibility, grew once more.

United’s need for defensive solidity is far greater than City’s and, while Guardiola likes his power, the two clubs want the 26-year-old for slightly different reasons. For City, this is someone who is courageous on the ball. A defender who careers out of defence with purpose and often seen carrying possession deep into opposition territory. He also played more accurate long balls (191) than Ayermic Laporte’s 173 in four fewer league games. Given Laporte’s precision when hitting the flanks, that comparison feels striking.

For United – who conceded 54 goals last season – he is primarily viewed as reliable, winning the majority of his aerial duels and barely making mistakes leading to goals. His ease on the ball is an added bonus and would undoubtedly prove a plus for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should they manage to close a deal.

All that, the contrasting reasons for landing him, make Maguire a catch and there are very few British players who boast his collection of qualities. Maguire reads the game expertly, an organiser too. At this point, United just need a defender they can rely on. They have addressed that at right-back, with the £45m capture of Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace, and, having also landed Daniel James, are now moving on to their spine. There can be few better candidates than Maguire.

“Harry’s a top-level centre half,” Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said recently. “He has age on his side. He can get better. No question. What he already has is an incredible pace. 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, you have to be comfortable on the ball. And he has that. He’s a great guy, a good fella. He has been on a good journey. Sheffield United, Hull City and he’s come into here and he’s grown. But we have identified areas for him to work on this summer. We can push him even further. I’m convinced he can develop.”

Maguire’s love of the ball was honed at the Sheffield United academy but also aided at St Mary’s School in Chesterfield, where youngsters are criticised for ‘lumping the ball in the air’. Skills and small-sided exercises were impressed on the pupils, Maguire excelling.

Competitive brothers helped and perhaps that along with playing rugby gave him an edge. He continues to visit his parents in Mosborough when time allows and remains a family man. That is probably smart and he was a smart student too, leaving school with a raft of A* and A grades at GCSE level and thriving in maths. Teachers tipped him to become an accountant. United need to decide quickly whether the numbers add up for someone who finally realises what all the fuss is about.

Although Rodgers says he has age on his side, Maguire does know that time is of the essence. He has informed the Leicester board of his wish to leave the King Power Stadium before August. The confidence in his own ability has heightened since that chat with Southgate and hopes to be operating at the next level come next month.