How Harry Maguire Can Up His Level of Performance at Manchester United

Daniel Feliciano
Dec 24, 2020, 12:15 PM GMT
Everton v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Quarter Final
Everton v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Quarter Final | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Harry Maguire to Nemanja Matic to Luke Shaw. Back to Matic, back to Maguire, forward to Anthony Martial and into Edinson Cavani; goal.

It was that simple in the end, as Manchester United left it late to beat Everton and progress into the Carabao Cup semi finals with a win at Goodison Park.

United were relatively dominant throughout and probably should've been one or two ahead inside the opening 30 minutes, having stroked the ball around nicely and pushed forward with an intent to cause Everton problems early.

But after missing several good chances, the game's pace slowed down significantly and soon we saw the rather uglier side of Manchester United. Slow, tempo-less football that had no purpose other than to keep hold of possession and ensure a goal didn't go in at the other end.

True, it's a style where Bruno Fernandes can then up things and shine brightest as he seeks to fashion something out of nothing, but it's a tempo that £80m club captain Harry Maguire should really be looking to dictate and keep consistent throughout.

So often Maguire will pick up the ball from David de Gea or Dean Henderson, whoever is in goal, or his centre-back partner and literally walk with it. He will slow the game all the way down, allow United's opposition to settle back into their shape before playing a sideways pass out to the left side.

Frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it.

Furthermore, Maguire more than has the capability to play forward passes into dangerous areas, so it's interesting - and perhaps a little baffling - why he doesn't look to do it more often. Statistically he is in the top 5% of centre backs in Europe's top five leagues for passes into the final third but when you watch United play, you can't help but feel it's an area that he needs to work and improve on.

Is it confidence? Is it concern about giving the ball away? We've seen against both Leeds and Everton that United are at their most dangerous best when they play with an intensity and desire to get their creative players on the ball as often as possible, but with that excitement always comes an element of risk.

But without risk, where is the reward? United have so many players capable of bursting forward at pace that it seems counter-intuitive not to bypass the deeper midfield lines at times and get motoring as quickly as possible.

Of course, this is just one facet of Maguire's game. On the whole, United's skipper has been pretty good defensively, he's dominated in the air and has formed a solid partnership with Victor Lindelof to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a settled back four.

But Lindelof has added forward thinking passing into his game, as we saw most recently for his assist for Marcus Rashford against Sheffield United, so as the leading centre-back in the squad, it's up to Maguire to now follow his lead.

Lets be clear. nobody is expecting for Maguire to play forward passes between the lines every single time he is in possession. That's not realistic and will cause more problems than it solves. But even just moving the ball with two or three touches, rather than five or six, will go a long way to helping the Red Devils maintain their forward intensity.

Defensively, Maguire has shored Manchester United up, that much is undeniable. But to elevate his game, and in turn United's, he now needs to open up the attacking side of his game and show what separates the best ball-playing centre backs in the world - ones worth £80m - from the good ones.