Leicester City fans will likely have a few words for Harry Maguire when their side faces Manchester United on Sunday afternoon. The Foxes faithful did not take kindly to their 2018 Player of the Season moving to Old Trafford a year later, even if it was for an £80 million fee that broke the world record for a defender.
While their derision isn’t likely to be as vociferously delivered, United supporters will probably have some critical words of their own for their club captain. The England defender has often flattered to deceive in the famous red shirt, failing to justify his enormous price tag consistently.
It is an indicator of his fall from grace that United are reportedly open to offers for the 29-year-old. That reputational plummet looks even more drastic when you realise that, at this point, United would be lucky to get half of what they paid for him.
There is a bit of hyperbole that unfairly surrounds Maguire. Like Phil Jones before him, his memeable features can sometimes make an average display look like a dreadful one. Like his almost-invisible teammate, this function as a figure of fun has chipped away at the edifice of a once-promising career.
But in both cases, better displays on the field would eliminate some of the pointing and laughing. Jones couldn’t get off the treatment table long enough to distance himself from his rubber-faced reputation. Meanwhile, Maguire can’t put enough solid performances together to escape ‘Slabhead’.
As is the cycle of Maguire’s career, an excellent showing at an international tournament has given way to club mediocrity. It is a pattern the defender will likely continue for as long as Gareth Southgate prioritises Maguire’s international form over his club displays. Maguire looked infallible at the winter World Cup in Qatar. But that momentum evaporated almost as soon as the England team plane landed back home.
Some opined that reduced responsibility would give Maguire the freedom to shine. With Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez joining over the last two summers, the pressure is no longer on Maguire as the club’s primary centre back. But rather than being fired-up by competition or relieved that he isn’t the senior man any more, Maguire has wilted under the pressure.
This was evidenced when Maguire started against Leeds United last Sunday. The ex-Foxes man looked unsure of himself, making several mistakes and misjudging his positioning on a number of occasions. Were he not bailed out by David de Gea in the United goal, the score could have looked very different than the 2-0 victory it displayed.
Maguire will get more chances, despite the shakiness of his recent displays. While he may not start against his former club, he could well figure from the bench. Ten Hag has stressed the need to use his whole squad as they battle on four fronts. But it is difficult to see United relying on the Sheffield-born centre-back much longer.
Maguire was nearly thrown a lifeline in January, with several Serie A clubs reportedly interested in taking him on loan. A move to Italy can be restorative for an out-of-form English defender departing Old Trafford. Just ask Roma’s Chris Smalling, who went from persona non grata in Manchester to Man of the Match in a Europa Conference League final win. There are teams out there who would want a player who still occasionally shows his class, even if it usually comes in England colours.
Leicester fans will be far happier than United supporters with how the Maguire deal panned out. At a time when the Red Devils are in the ascendancy and the Foxes are toiling mediocrity, it is a victory they can claim over their opponents. But like Leicester have already, United may soon be confining their Harry Maguire chapter to the history books.
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