Maguire justifies price tag but United still lack sparkle

Maguire justifies price tag but United still lack sparkle
Manchester United centre- half Harry Maguire heads the ball clear as Leicester’s James Maddison comes in to challenge during the Premier League clash at at Old Trafford on Saturday. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Ultimately, the HarryMaguire sideshow was decided by Marcus Rashford scoring an early penalty for his new employers Manchester United but, beneath the sheer relief of a sorely-needed victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, a few painful home truths were all too apparent.

One of them was personified in the shape of Leicester’s James Maddison, recently called into Gareth Southgate’s England squad although unused in last week’s easy victories.

Maguire played his part at the back for United, looking worth every penny of the world record £80 million Solskjaer handed over to Leicester last month to sign him, holding together a defence which still does not instill confidence.

Leicester dominated large chunks of an entertaining contest and it was Maddison who took control of the game, his vision, range of passing, creativity and energy looking capable of swinging it in the visitors’ direction.

Much was made in the pre-match talk about whether Maguire’s old club would end the season in a higher league position than United for just the second time since 1974.

And, while Maguire certainly enjoyed the last laugh over the visiting supporters who hurled verbal abuse at him all afternoon, there is no doubting that if the reports about United plotting a return to Leicester in the January window to buy Maddison are true, their prospects will look far healthier.

For Maddison, whatever Southgate’s current reservations, looks like a player on the verge of a breakout season.

“Not really, not really,” said Rodgers, when asked if he was surprised that Southgate failed to use his star last week.

“Young players need to understand they don’t have an entitlement, just because they play well, get in the squad, there has to be a process.

“Gareth will obviously pick the players who he thinks should play. He has to be consistent, a really humble boy, a lovely swagger, a lovely arrogance, but he is a good kid who will get better.

“He loves his football, hopefully, he can sustain that place in the squad and be there for when they need him.

“I think he’s going to improve in his game, the management of his game, but he’s a big talent and we’re just trying to prepare him in order for him to play at the highest level for as long as he came.”

Consistency certainly seems to be one area in which the 22-year-old could improve and there were reports from the England camp that Southgate had not exactly been blown away by his efforts in training - hence Maddison falling behind Chelsea’s Mason Mount in the pecking order.

On the basis of his Old Trafford display, performing on the big stage certainly does not hold any fears for Maddison although his manager insists that confidence should not be mistaken for arrogance or an unwillingness to work.

“He’s got a really strong belief in his ability, it’s not misplaced, he’s a very good player, fantastic talent but is constantly working to be better,” said Rodgers.

“It does help to have that swagger. It’s having that confidence, but he’s a humble boy behind it.

“People look at it, will think it’s misplaced at times, but it’s not. He’s a really, really talented player who is learning that to get to the top you have to work and you have to work hard.”

With Paul Pogba absent from United’s line-up, the lack of creativity in their midfield was especially glaring although Andreas Pereira did well to win the ball in the move that led to Caglar Soyuncu tripping Rashford, who coolly converted his eighth-minute penalty.

But, whatever Solskjaer’s critics may say, his belief in United’s tradition of handing youth its chance cannot be faltered.

There were, predictably, starts for 21-year-old summer signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James but the United bench also included another 21-year-old, a 17-year-old and a pair of 19s.

“I don’t believe in age, good players or bad players. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 35, so I think who played today deserved to play,” said elder statesman Nemanja Matic.

The most important thing was the team took three points and I am happy for the young players, they get the opportunity to play here, it’s not always the case in big clubs, and Manchester United is giving opportunities to the guys who grew up here in the academy.

“I think in this season the people from the club they can see who is ready to play already in a high level. It doesn’t matter if they are 18 or 25 or 35 we can see who is ready and who is not and who will be important for the future.

“I am happy for them. I like to see young players on the pitch and hopefully, they can bring us some fresh energy for the rest of the season.”

MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 7; Wan-Bissaka 6, Lindelof 7, Maguire 9, Young 6; McTominay 8, Matic 6 (Fred 67, 6); A Pereira 6, Mata 6 (Chong 70, 6), James 7 (Tuanzebe 90); Rashford 7. Subs (not used) Romero, Jones, Greenwood, Gomes.

LEICESTER (4-1-4-1): Schmiechel 7; R Pereira 5, Evans 9, Soyuncu 5, Chilwell 7; Ndidi 7; Gray 5 (Barnes 68, 7), Tielemans 7, Choudhury 5 (Perez 57, 7), Maddison 8; Vardy 5. Subs (not used) Ward, Justin, Morgan, Albrighton, Praet.

Referee: Martin Atkinson 7

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