Man United boss Ralf Rangnick must go back to original Harry Maguire decision as soon as possible – Daniel Murphy

Ralf Rangnick is already well aware that Harry Maguire isn’t cutting it at the moment.

The centre-back’s struggles in the heart of defense are well documented and were once again at the forefront of another disappointing United result on Tuesday.

United were in desperate need of a positive game following on from their shock FA Cup elimination to Championship side Middlesbrough and things did start brightly for them.

Rangnick’s side, just as they had in the opening 45 minutes against Boro, completely dominated their opponents and looked on course for a comfortable victory.

The frustration after Maguire’s mistimed run and clumsy block on Jay Rodriguez which led to Raphael Varane’s opener being disallowed didn’t last long as there was no denying Paul Pogba’s thumping shot into the top corner moments later.

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Another disallowed goal minutes after the legal strike was even more egregious yet United were still in the ascendancy against a team struggling at the bottom of the table.

After the break, however, Burnley came out fighting as if their lives depended on it and drew level shortly afterwards through Rodriguez. Maguire did not cover himself in glory.

Firstly he somehow managed to make the 6ft6″ Wout Weghorst look as if he had the elegance of Zinedine Zidane as he was easily turned. Having advanced so far forward to challenge the giant forward, Maguire was hopelessly out of position and left a gaping hole for Rodriguez to advance through following Weghorst’s pass.

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The Clarets’ forward took his time to bear down on goal but still Maguire was slow to get back and when he finally did his challenge was meek, doing nothing to stop the ball from being prodded home.

It was yet another dismal piece of defending that is becoming all too common for the most expensive defender of all time.

Rangnick had recognized this and moved to take him out of the team last month.

A chest injury ruled Maguire out for two games at the start of the year – the loss to Wolves and FA Cup win against Aston Villa – but upon his return to fitness he wasn’t immediately reinstated to the team.

Instead, he sat on the bench as United threw a two-goal lead away at Villa Park and he was benched again in the following 3-1 win against Brentford, coming on for the final 19 minutes as Rangnick switched to a back-three to see out the game.

Harry Maguire (right) was unable to stop Jay Rodriguez from bringing Burnley level.
Harry Maguire (right) was unable to stop Jay Rodriguez from bringing Burnley level.

It’s pretty safe to assume that the 28-year-old would have remained on the bench for the following game against West Ham, too, but circumstances outside of Rangnick’s control meant he came back into the side.

The interim manager has been starved of centre-back options in recent weeks as Eric Bailly was away at the African Cup of Nations and returned injured, while Victor Lindelof has understandably been allowed time off after his family suffered the terrifying ordeal of burglars entering their home while they were there while he was playing at Brentford.

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That has left just Phil Jones, who has only played two matches in over two years, as competition for Maguire to partner Raphael Varane. So it makes sense that he the skipper has been reinstated.

But he hasn’t taken his chance over the last couple of games and remains a cumbersome, weak link in the heart of a back-line that otherwise has improved since Rangnick’s arrival.

Whether it’s a crisis of confidence, fatigue or a hopeless loss of form, either way, Rangnick had made the right decision by pulling Maguire out of the firing line. Fate has conspired to mean he could n’t stay there for longer but it’s obvious he needs more time to refresh and get back to his best.

As soon as he can – which might not be for a while yet – Rangnick needs to drop Maguire once again for his own sake and the sake of United’s Champions League hopes.

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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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