Harry Maguire was at Old Trafford on Thursday night, on crutches and in a protective boot.
His influence on the pitch was severely missed as United’s defence fell apart against Liverpool.
After surviving a first half penalty scare, United still managed to concede two goals before half-time, with the team’s vulnerability from set pieces resurfacing.
What was clear, was that the defence was disorganised. In addition to Maguire’s own individual quality as a defender, his leadership is so important to his teammates.
United are so used to playing with Maguire, as he rarely misses matches, being without him has been a shock to the system and has clearly taken some adjustment to get used to, and the result was not pretty.
United conceded a really soft third goal, with Fred and then Luke Shaw giving the ball away as United attempted to play the ball out from the back. United conceded a late fourth after getting caught on the break.
Maguire is such an ever-present, that he often goes under appreciated. This was a case of ‘you don’t know how good something is, until it’s gone’.
United still hope the club captain will be back for the Europa League final on May 26. On this evidence, the team need him badly.
Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof have not partnered each other in the Premier League since the 2018/19 season. Last night it showed, and was a reminder why United sought to buy Maguire in the first place.
It should be said that Bailly was starting his second game in three days, for which he deserves some credit due to his injury record.
Maguire is a little different to his fellow centre-backs, due to his ability to move the ball upfield out of defence so effectively. This was another area where he was missed against Liverpool.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker commented on Maguire’s absence and labelled United’s defence as ‘shambolic’ without him.
Supporters took the time to also praise Maguire, after witnessing a below par defensive display from his teammates. May be he is more important than anybody realised?
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