United’s much-maligned centre half, Harry Maguire, should be the first name on Erik ten Hag’s team sheet going forward. That’s the view of United’s legendary former goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, with the Dane going public on Maguire’s renaissance in recent weeks.
Schmeichel has urged ten Hag to “put Harry Maguire first” in the team selection stakes following a string of improved performances. Most notably his resolute display in keeping a clean sheet during the narrow 1-0 victory at Fulham, courtesy of a late Bruno Fernandes winner.
Maguire has endured a turbulent time in a United jersey since the arrival of ten Hag at Old Trafford. The Dutchman was quick to dispense with him from the starting XI in favour of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane, however injuries have reopened the door for the 30-year-old.
Spending time on the sidelines appears to have cleared Maguire’s head, having suffered the double-whammy of an alarming drop in form and being stripped of the club captaincy.
Sometimes players just need taking out of the firing line to recharge their batteries, Peter Schmeichel included. A recent interview with Gary Pallister revealed that the Danish keeper was once given a full month off from football duties midway through a Premier League season, spending time in Barbados. Pallister said Sir Alex Ferguson’s man management skills were such that he would always defend his players. Maguire may not have felt similar love and protection from Ten Hag in the press, but he certainly let his football do the talking at Craven Cottage.
It’s quite possible that Maguire’s pathway to the United starting XI will be made even easier in January too. If reports are to be believed, French defender Varane is being lined up for a move to the Saudi Arabian Pro League when the winter transfer window opens. Varane’s time at Old Trafford has been blighted by injuries and the former Real Madrid defender is rumoured to be pinning his hopes on a reunion with former Real teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, at Al Nassr.
Of course, it’s entirely possible ten Hag looks to shift both Varane and Maguire in January. After all, the club agreed a £30m fee with West Ham United for Maguire’s services in the summer before Maguire rejected the move. One thing is for certain, Maguire needs to be playing regular first team football between now and May if he’s to give himself the best possible chance of selection for England at next summer’s EURO 2024.
The likes of Jean-Clair Todibo, Goncalo Inacio and Antonio Silva are said to be on United’s wish-list of defensive recruits. Maguire’s whole-hearted displays of late have shown he’s determined not to be cast onto the Red Devils’ scrapheap just yet.