Paul Pogba dabbing with the World Cup brought the curtain down on a great tournament in Russia. It also meant teams can now solely focus their attentions on pre-season and increased player recruitment activity ahead of the 2018-19 campaign. United are certainly no different in that respect, with the overwhelming consensus that fresh faces are needed to get closer to a title challenge. Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant have thus far signed on the dotted line but there is a definite expectation that number will increase by the start of August.
One area United are still trying to bolster is in the heart of the defence. With Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois’ heart set on a move to Real Madrid, United can sit relatively comfy in the likelihood that David De Gea will remain red for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, you can’t help but get the feeling United would improve further with a quality centre-back to help bring on Victor Lindelof’s and Eric Bailly’s development.
Not that United’s defence were flaky in terms of goals conceded, but it could well have been were it not for the continued brilliance of De Gea. He bailed out United on a number of occasions last season, most notably at Anfield and The Emirates, where he saved a record number of shots since Opta started compiling statistics.
When Chris Smalling and Phil Jones arrived seven, yes seven years ago, you would have hoped to have got long odds on questions still being asked about them in the present day. Be it their tendency for a howler or injuries, neither have kicked on as many had anticipated. In short, United need an uncompromising centre-back they can trust.
Look no further than Harry Maguire of Leicester City.
Regular readers of my pieces will know that I have been angling for Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld to make the move to Old Trafford. The guy is pure class and symbolises Tottenham’s rise. I would be made up if the Belgian joined but, while I was thinking ‘Alderweireld HAS to be the one’, Maguire has propelled himself right to the top of my wish list.
This is no Maguire championing based on being wise after the event either, his qualities were there for all to see even in his Hull City days. Many were even campaigning for Mourinho to gamble on him when he was wearing black and amber, they would have saved a darn sight more too. It’s fair to say he won hearts and minds with his performances for England in Russia and it is easy to see why.
He is a defender you can trust, he was on the pitch for every minute of Leicester’s 2017-18 campaign. When was the last time a United centre-back was an ever present and a guaranteed mainstay? That is surely the Holy Grail for many of a red persuasion, it would help De Gea’s cause out no end, knowing who is in front of him and building that understanding week in week out.
United have flipped between the likes of Rojo, Lindelof, Smalling, Blind and Jones in recent weeks. That does not breed sustained success. Every title-winning side had established centre-back pairings- the likes of Adams and Keown, Ferdinand and Vidic, Kompany and Lescott, Morgan and Huth, Terry and Cahill, Cahill and David Luiz- that is the common denominator.
Maguire’s ability to bring the ball out of defence and launch attacks is an attractive attribute but perhaps it’s another standout area which would be of more appeal to United fans- his willingness to put his body on the line, which is something Mourinho demands of his defenders cum soldiers. The manager has previously questioned the durability of Jones and Smalling- with the former seemingly made out of glass and the latter called out for missing a game due to a reluctance to play through the pain. Ironically Smalling played through the pain at the King Power last season: His immobility allowed Maguire to sneak in at the back post to snatch a last-gasp equaliser.
It was perhaps written: Maguire coming to prominence with Smalling the fall guy in both the fixture, England’s World Cup squad and who’s to rule out United’s transfer activity too?
Naturally, Leicester would loathe to lose another of their prized assets, after seeing Riyad Mahrez eventually get the move to Manchester City he so long desired. Maguire’s stock has undoubtedly peaked thanks to the World Cup and there is bound to be big interest in his services. It will be interesting to see whether Leicester will be able to resist offers, after all, money talks in this game. On the face of it, he would appear, on paper at least, to be more obtainable than some of the targets United have been linked with. The likes of Bonucci, Romagnoli, Varane and Skriniar all appear out of reach this summer.
United will have recruited excellently should they manage to sign Harry Maguire. A guy who never misses a game, leads from the back, brilliant in both boxes and is only going to get better and better.
Let’s see if how this one pans out.