Harry Maguire withdrew from the England squad after his conviction in Greece on alleged assault, resisting arrest, and bribery charges. The Manchester United defender plead innocence and plans to appeal, BBC Sport reported.
United return to training next week, and the removal of Maguire from the England squad suggests this could be an on-pitch distraction for the Red Devils too, in the short-term.
The Guardian reported Maguire was kicked in the incident, and the United captain will have to be assessed physically as well as mentally to see if he is ready to return to action.
Can United cope without him?
Maguire was handed a suspended 21-month sentence so there is no question of him having to actually serve it.
However, United may look to give him an extended break, at least until October, rather than rush him back.
Maguire was an ever-present in the Premier League in 2019/20, playing every single minute. His teammates are used to him being there.
He will likely be resistant to missing any game time, but importantly, United have several options at centre-back.
If Maguire was sat out for a game or two, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof would start.
Both players were deemed good enough by Solskjaer to start the FA Cup semi-final along with Maguire, and performed well until Bailly went off with injury and the gameplan went to pot.
Axel Tuanzebe is also due back from injury in time for the new season, while Luke Shaw and Phil Jones are emergency options at the position. Also in the mix is promising youngster Teden Mengi.
United also have returning loanees Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo. Both players may be sold if there is a decent offer, like Jones.
But in the event Maguire was forced to sit out, for any reason, an unrelated injury for instance, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has options in the short-term, to keep both around until 2021.
Centre-back is an area United may need to improve on anyway
Nobody believes United are low on numbers at centre-back. But the club can still improve.
Victor Lindelof was caught out in matches in July and August against Chelsea, Southampton, and Sevilla with individual errors.
If United can find a genuine top centre-back who can improve the team, specifically like Dayot Upamecano, then he would be worth paying for.
Maguire helped United’s defence improve after his £80 million arrival a year ago, with the team conceding 36 Premier League goals in 2019/20 compared to 54 the year prior.
Take him out of the side, and United regress. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was a reason for the defensive improvement too, but Maguire’s impact should not be dismissed in anyway.
If the worst case scenario happened or does happen where the England ace missed months of action, he cannot be easily replaced, especially with Tuanzebe and Bailly’s poor track record of staying fit.
There is still room to get better even with Maguire – by replacing Lindelof – and if there was a chance of Maguire missing games, then it should absolutely accelerate whatever plans United may have to try and sign a new centre-back.
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