Manchester United desperately need a quality centre-back. The entire footballing world can see it, and it looks like they may have finally got their man.
Leicester City have reportedly accepted an £80million bid for Harry Maguire. £80million? Let’s just let that sink in a bit. It’s a lot of money. A. Lot. For Harry Maguire. Especially considering it’s more than Juventus have just paid for Matthijs de Ligt.
The 26-year-old is undoubtedly talented, but £80million is ridiculous money for someone that’s never played in the Champions League (not that United will be next season) or ever been close to the top level of the club game.
He’ll now be the most expensive defender of all time.
Eyebrows were raised when Liverpool parted with around £75million for Virgil van Dijk, although we can all see the sense now. The Dutchman shored up a leaky defence which was the main thing holding Jurgen Klopp’s team back and propelled them to Champions League glory. He’s now up there with the frontrunners for this year’s Ballon D’Or.
So, can Maguire do the same? To me it just seems like too much of a stretch of the imagination to expect the same kind of impact, with the colossal fee more down to United’s desperation and vast resources being once again used against them.
City feel it’s too much and have cooled their interest. It looks like United feel like they can do nothing else.
Fee aside, is he actually the right man for the job in United’s current predicament?
Despite not agreeing with the outlay, I think that at this moment in time he is. We all saw last season how far off the team is from the top of the league. City have strengthened, Liverpool will build on last season’s Champions League and even Spurs have been buying.
Realistically, United are a long way from title contenders. The best they can hope for is a top four place.
The notion of one big player coming in and transforming things is fanciful. The last few seasons have shown that.
The focus now should be on building a team with hungry, young players with something to prove and that can help create a foundation on which to build.
Maguire fits that mould. It just feels like ridiculous money for a foundation.
He has Premier League experience. He’s shown that he can step up a level when required – no one expected him to excel in Russia the way he did – and he’s got the controlling mentality to be a leader at the back for United.
And that’s what’s been missing. United’s current centre-halves are all support men, made better with someone quality next to them and made worse with Phil Jones next to them.
Victor Lindelöf is by far the best, but he still fits into the support role. Put a leader next to him and his game will get better and better. The Swede and the new signing could make a solid partnership.
The partnership with Lindelöf is the first step. The next is to dish out the orders to the full backs. Luke Shaw has been improving with every game in a United shirt and looks to have had another fitness-filled summer break. His positioning can still be poor at times though.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has shown his class during his pre-season minutes – literally no one can get past him – and will really shore up that side of the defence. He will also need someone to talk him through moments in the biggest encounters, however.
Maguire has to step up and be that man. And in fairness to the big Yorkshireman and what we’ve seen of his character in the last few seasons, it’s a challenge he’ll no doubt be keen to take on.
He wasn’t great for Leicester last season, suffering a World Cup hangover in the same way as much of Gareth Southgate’s squad. He needs to cut out mistakes from his game and know when to bring the ball out from the back himself and when to use his midfielders.
And bringing the ball out is one attribute that could well make him the right man for United. We’ve all been there at Old Trafford watching the centre-backs aimlessly play it between themselves.
It’s painful to watch, but to be fair to Chris Smalling and the rest, it’s hard when there’s literally no movement from the midfield. Paul Pogba, we’re looking at you.
Maguire won’t stand for that and will bring it forward with quality and drive. And that’s what United really need, a bit of drive from the back.
Yes, it’s a lot of money and there’s still a question mark over his quality at the highest level, but fingers crossed he ends up being just what the club have been looking for.