How Harry Maguire compares to Premier League rivals as calls to drop Man United captain intensify

Harry Maguire’s performance is set to be scrutinized closely tonight as Manchester United welcome Brighton to Old Trafford.

The Reds are without a win in three matches and have kept just one clean sheet across their last six, causing unrest amongst United fans.

A large portion of their frustrations have been aimed towards Maguire who has been accused of performing at a below-par level for much of the campaign so far.

This has led to calls for the defender to be dropped and stripped of the club captaincy by manager Ralf Rangnick, yet for now, the German seems unwilling to make such a drastic decision.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s clash, Rangnick said: “I think when he came back after his injury he did extremely well. He had a very good performance, a very good game against West Ham.

“In the past two games, yeah, he had some weaker moments, against Southampton and when we conceded the goal at Burnley, but he’s our captain and I don’t see any reason to change that.”

So far throughout this turbulent season, Maguire has been one of United’s most consistent players in terms of appearances, with only Bruno Fernandes and David De Gea accumulating more Premier League minutes.

However, the underlying numbers point to a player that has rarely excelled. Although he’s come out on top in 67.71 per cent of his defensive league duels this season, that ranks only 23rd from the 53 central defenders who have played over 1000 minutes.

In terms of aerial duels won, his success rate of 63.64% ranks him a much better tenth in that same group of players.

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Yet, even so, it’s a notably lower success rate to teammate Raphael Varane who coincidentally ranks top across the division in this area with a success rate of 72.41%. Maguire’s output in both departments is also a sizeable reduction on his success rates from last season – defensive duels 70.59%, aerial duels 71.04%.

In terms of the cause of this decline, there have been numerous factors that have played a part.

A big one ties in with wider team issues ahead of Maguire. United have lacked stability and key personnel in important areas of the pitch, namely a robust and commanding defensive midfielder. This has meant that not only Maguire but also the defense has often been left vulnerable and exposed.

It’s damning that despite having one of the strongest squads in the division, only Norwich City and Leeds United have allowed more shots on their goal than United this season (116).

This lack of protection is particularly problematic given Maguire’s profile. Contrary to opinion, the 28-year-old is a good defender, however, he’s arguably better suited to a less expansive side that aims to defend in deeper areas.

United, particularly under Rangnick, are trying to instill a philosophy that seems to press them high up the pitch. To do so, the defensive line needs to be high, and in such a set up it is defenders with pace who usually thrive best, but that’s a facet of Maguire’s game that is in short supply.

For that reason, Maguire needs greater protection. It’s something that’s been recognized by Gareth Southgate at England and it will be in part why the Three Lions play a three-man defence.

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We’re unlikely to see back-three at United, certainly under Rangnick in this season at least. But the United boss does at least think Maguire can improve as he gets more familiar with United’s current approach.

Rangnick added: “Here at Manchester United, in most cases (we play) a back four, not being proactive, not with that kind of rest defense (but) always being on the front foot when we are trying to defend.

“This is something also new to him and it will also take some time for him to get used to that, to get adjusted to that.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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