Harry Maguire was among the Manchester United travelling squad to Partizan Belgrade. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might want to think twice before picking him.
An injury to Manchester United’s defensive leader would leave our backline very vulnerable.
The world’s most expensive defender is yet to make his European debut for the Red Devils, but he was on the bench away to AZ Alkmaar.
However, United are lacking centre back options ahead of the game against Partizan Belgrade, Axel Tuanzebe had to withdraw from the starting line-up against Liverpool after sustaining an injury in the warm up and Eric Bailly remains a long-term absentee.
Maguire is one of four centre halves to travel to Serbia alongside Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Victor Lindelöf. Jones has only just recently returned from injury.
Rojo and Lindelöf were the chosen pairing in United’s last European tie in Hague, but if Solskjaer opts to stick with the three at the back formation he went with against Liverpool, the Norwegian may choose between either Maguire or Jones to play alongside the Swede and Argentine.
David de Gea isn’t part of the travelling party despite making a surprising comeback in the draw against Liverpool despite sustaining a groin injury playing for Spain.
It is clear that Solskjaer is protecting De Gea, but Maguire who has played a lot of football for club and country recently, should have also been left behind in Manchester to rest ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.
Perhaps he might have been, if not for Tuanzebe’s injury. It’s practical to take him as a back-up in case of an injury on the night, if a three back defence is selected.
Including the game in Belgrade, over the next 10 days, United have away clashes at Norwich, Chelsea and Bournemouth to come. Solskjaer’s depleted squad is going to be stretched and tested to its very limit.
Solskjaer will ideally want to get qualification for the knockout stages wrapped up as quick as possible, but Maguire ideally shouldn’t be making his European bow until February.
How would United cope without Maguire?
The additions of Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have transformed United into a solid defensive unit.
Solskjaer has had to cope without Wan-Bissaka already this season, but Maguire has been ever present in the Premier League and has become the enforcer the club has been crying out for since the departures of Vidic and Ferdinand.
Lindelöf has been shaky at times this season, and Rojo and Jones just simply aren’t good enough long term and are far too rash. Tuanzebe showed real promise against Newcastle, but he had the calming presence of Maguire next to him.
A United defence without Maguire is unthinkable, we would be exposed just like we were on too many occasions last season. The weight on Maguire’s shoulders to marshal the backline is massive, he is irreplaceable.
He has made an impressive start to life at Old Trafford, but there is a lot more to come from the former Leicester City man.
Solskjaer needs to make sure that he manages Maguire’s workload to minimise any potential fatigue, which could lead to muscle injuries.
United have had to deal with injuries to Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial already.
They have been big misses, but an injury to Maguire could put United’s chances of getting the season back on track in serious jeopardy. Let’s not take the risk.
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