Harry Maguire has a lot of critics, but there are also those who still believe in him, including, of course, England coach Gareth Southgate. However, Maguire’s two biggest supporters are probably the statisticians and himself.
Speaking after England’s 2-1 win over Italy on Thursday, Maguire made it clear that he was being unfairly criticised and that he was, in fact, improving Manchester United when he played.
Asked if he feels properly appreciated (via The Times), Maguire replied: “For England, yes, yes.
“Obviously, last season was difficult for the club, but, look, I showed myself to Gareth, who works with a wide range of central defenders. He has a choice among all the English central defenders in the country and I play every time I’m free, I’ve been in the team.
“I’m sure if you ask the other guys, they know what I bring to the team. I’m 30 years old, but I don’t need to prove myself at this level.
“I have more than 50 matches.
“I am the most productive defender in England.”
Maguire did not explain why, in his opinion, the English fans booed him more than once.
After praising himself as an England player, he then continued to argue his position in favor of United, saying:
“I’ve played almost 200 times for Manchester United, I’ve been captain of the club for three years, but I also understand that when you’re captain of Manchester United, you’re under the most control.
“Last season, at club level, my game wasn’t good enough, like everyone else at club level, not just myself. Everyone else was struggling.”
This is an interesting admission, because by the end of last season, the skipper was adamant that his performances were actually at the proper level, saying: “I wouldn’t have played every game for #mufc in the starting lineup if I played poorly in every game or didn’t play well enough.”
Harry Maguire: "I wouldn't be playing every game for #mufc in the starting eleven if I'd been playing bad every game or not playing well enough. There's a reason why both managers have put me in the starting eleven every game." #mulive [@footballdaily] pic.twitter.com/U9r1S54Nds
— utdreport (@utdreport) April 19, 2022
And his claim that “everyone else was struggling” may be true, but he is the only one who topped the Premier League chart “in the number of errors leading to shots” last season.
He further states: “My form has been good this year.
“When I played, in my last eight or nine matches for Manchester United, we won.
“So my influence is still here.”
By comparison, The Times notes that “half of Maguire’s 24 matches for United this season have been substitutions.”
It is true that statistics tend to confirm Maguire’s claims that he is an asset, not a liability. Fantastic 86.9% pass accuracy in the Premier League and a reasonable average sofa points rating of 7.0 per game, zero errors leading to shots and zero errors leading to goals are points in his favor.
However, as Henry Winter of The Times points out in his article, what fans see with the naked eye and what statistics often cannot convey is a propensity for blatant mistakes that cost points to both club and country.
The fantastic statistics published against Italy should be compared with Winter’s summation of Italy’s goal, which he believes was Maguire’s mistake.
“When Maguire brought the ball out from under the defense, Italian Domenico Berardi blocked the pass to Jack Grealish. There was no pass, and Maguire’s attempt missed the target.
“Nevertheless, it was a desperate attempt by the 30-year-old to correct this mistake, which eventually gave Mateo Retegui, after a skillful reverse pass by Lorenzo Pellegrini, space to strike the final blow.
“Maguire’s attack on Nicolo Barella left a gap in the defense and reminded of the United defender’s red card against Denmark in the Nations League in October 2020.
“The second yellow card within half an hour that night was received when he threw himself at Kasper Dolberg. It was reckless, panicky, just like Thursday night. Confidence and composure— close partners— are in short supply now.”
Winter then mentions three more occasions when Maguire made mistakes that led to a goal against England; against France in the World Cup quarterfinals, Iran in the World Cup group stage and against Germany in a 3-3 Nations League match last September.
United fans will have their own list of examples of Maguire’s costly and frankly clumsy mistakes, many of which have been made this season despite his claims that “my form has been good.”
It is this lack of self-criticism that is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the central defender’s demise. Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step.