Why does Harry Maguire get so much stick from fans and pundits?

Football can change in an instant. Harry Maguire knows all about it because his journey typifies the rollercoaster ride of professional sports. The former Hull City man established himself on the east coast before being snapped up by Leicester. After a miracle Premier League campaign in 2016, Maguire’s career went from strength to strength.  

However, it’s almost as if people have never fully believed that the Yorkshireman was a true centre-half, especially in Manchester. Old Trafford is seemingly where the defender receives the most criticism but does he deserve it or is some of the critique unnecessary?  

Not a fan favourite  

Whether it’s for Manchester United or England, Maguire isn’t a huge hit with the fans. Red Devil supporters are particularly caught up on the £70 million transfer fee the club paid for him in 2019. The fans’ apathy towards him is reflected through the odds on BBC Sports Personality of the Year, with Maguire a 250/1 outsider to win the prestigious Spoty 2021 accolade outright. Yes, Emma Raducanu’s victory was terrific, yet the central defender was part of an England side that made it to the final of Euro 2021 in the summer, which is a massive achievement.  

Of course, it’s no secret that pundits have been analysing Maguire’s form, and the results haven’t been favourable. Roy Keane, for example, blasted the former Hull man as ‘a disgrace’ and ’embarrassing’. Usually, fans would come to their player’s aid, even if they believed the criticism was warranted. Manchester United supporters have been nothing if not magnanimous in their support of Keane’s punditry.  

Surprisingly, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that Maguire is one of a couple of United players who have started the season poorly and need to improve. If he was a fan favourite, there would be no need for any of these admissions because they would protect him when his form dipped. Instead, people assume he doesn’t turn up when he’s most needed.  

Best of a bad bunch

As far as Manchester United is concerned, Maguire probably is the best centre-back the club has at the moment. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly aren’t of the standard the club requires, something the latter highlighted after hacking a harmless cross into his own net during the Manchester derby. Still, that doesn’t mean Maguire is in the correct place, either.  

He is being forced into being a leader, which doesn’t seem to suit his style of play, and the stress is beginning to show. This season, Maguire has already made one glaring error that has led to a goal. However, the stats are a little deceiving since most people would say he was at fault for three of the goals United conceded against Leicester City. Let’s not bother dwelling on how poorly organised the defence was during the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.  

Unfortunately for Maguire, he is the focus of the defence, so he gets the lion’s share of the blame when things go wrong. With United now priced at 90/1 odds to win the league, it’s no coincidence that he’s being targeted for his performances, within which he’s demonstrated zero leadership.  

Top heavy  

In Maguire’s defence, the philosophy of the football club is sorely lacking. Almost everyone but the Manchester United hierarchy themselves understands that Solskjaer isn’t good enough to be the manager, but they continue to employ him. While they do, Maguire and the rest of the squad will need to put up with a lack of protection at the back.  

The men who people thought would help United to a Premier League title – the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes, for example – are liabilities when the opposition has the ball. For instance, the club has conceded 17 goals so far this year, and only managed to secure two clean sheets. Those aren’t stats that make for happy reading if you’re a United fan.  

On the flip side, they’ve only scored 19 goals, which is eight and 12 goals short of Chelsea and Liverpool, respectively. Therefore, they can’t score their way out of trouble. One thing’s for sure, though – they’ll carry on letting them in until the balance of the squad is correct.  

In some ways, Maguire can’t help how Solskjaer sets up his team. However, he can control the performances that are turning off fans and highlighting his flaws.