Manchester United had the opportunity to see first hand the threat a dynamic and creative James Maddison brings. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to do all he can to bring make him his second signing from Leicester City.
The Norwegian’s side were always going to be in for a tough afternoon against Brendan Rodgers’ team regardless if they had a clean bill of health or not.
However, as Saturday’s clash developed, United were struggling to contain the influence Maddison was having, despite Scott McTominay’s stand out performance, he was having to contain both Maddison and Youri Tielemans.
Maddison could have given Leicester an early lead if it wasn’t for an instinctive save from David de Gea, the former Norwich City man showed great strength and pace to get away from Victor Lindelöf and was unlucky not to open his Premier League account for the season.
The 22-year-old was causing problems for United every time he got on the ball and often drifted off the left-hand side in the opening stages, frequently finding small pockets of spaces.
After being called up to the England squad for the clashes against Bulgaria and Kosovo, England fans were hoping that Gareth Southgate would have unleashed the youngster in either of those games.
Despite not getting his first Three Lions cap, there was no hangover or mopping in Maddison’s performance, he relishes getting on the ball and his first thought in possession is always forward thinking, a trait Manchester United desperately need.
Old Trafford came to a stand still as Maddison stood over a second half free-kick just on the edge of the post, his effort was struck well but it didn’t have the bend to trouble De Gea, much to the relief of the crowd.
When Ayoze Perez replaced Hamza Choudhury near the hour mark, Maddison was unleashed in his favoured number 10 role, Solskjaer reacted by brining Nemanja Matic off and brought on the energetic Fred in an attempt to combat the growing threat Maddison was bringing.
Juan Mata was deployed as the United number 10, but unfortunately for the Spaniard as the game grew on, it was abundantly clear that Maddison was in a different league.
Where does Maddison rank?
Maddison’s impressive attacking statistics since playing in the Premier League highlight that he is worthy of his place amongst the elite creators.
Since signing for Leicester at the start of last season, no player has created more chances that Maddison’s 109, putting him at the top of the pile ahead of the likes of Paul Pogba, Kevin de Bruyne, Christian Eriksen, Roberto Firmino and David Silva.
Maddison also sits in the top three for most shots with 16 efforts, most through balls with four and he has also made two assists.
He has also made 41 crosses this season, which puts him second only to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
One area of his game that could be improved is his goals output, Maddison’s only goal of the season so far was a terrific free kick in a Carabao Cup tie against Newcastle United. Last season he netted seven times.
Maddison would be a significant upgrade on Mata and Jesse Lingard whose worrying goal contribution statistics show no sign of being turned around, and Solskjaer seems reluctant to give Angel Gomes a chance to stake his own first team claim.
United may have pay a similar £80m fee to what it took to prize away Harry Maguire, but Maddison’s stock is rapidly rising and Solskjaer cannot afford to miss out on a player who would relish becoming United’s talisman.
If the Norwegian’s re-build project wants to build momentum, the signing of Maddison could be pivotal.
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