Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to give Manchester United’s defensive leader Harry Maguire a rest over the coming weeks.
Despite securing qualification for the Euro 2020 Championships with a 7-0 win against Montenegro with a game to spare, Gareth Southgate started Maguire once again in the Three Lions’ trip to Kosovo thee days later.
Southgate may have started Joe Gomez ahead of the former Leicester City man if the Liverpool defender hadn’t withdrawn from the squad due to injury.
However, Southgate did have other options, he could have partnered John Stones alongside Tyrone Mings, there was also the opportunity to give Declan Rice a chance at centre-back, but he opted to go with his number one centre back Maguire. None of this helped United.
Maguire has played a lot of football
The world’s most expensive defender has been ever present in the Premier League since making his big money move from the Foxes.
The additions of Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have significantly improved a United defence, which was lacking leadership and quality.
But after starting back-to-back Europa League games against Partizan Belgrade and captaining the side to an away victory to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, Maguire hasn’t had a rest since 3rd October.
Since the start of the season he has also played the full 90 minutes in all 6 of England’s qualifying matches.
He was an injury doubt ahead of the game with Bournemouth which he had to rush back for after sustaining a knock against Chelsea.
With the hectic festive schedule upon us, Solskjaer should be using the Europa League dead rubbers against Astana and AZ Alkmaar to rest his key players and give the club’s talented academy youngsters a further taste of senior football.
The Norwegian shouldn’t have to call upon the services of his number 5 for the Carabao Cup quarter-final against League Two outfit Colchester United either.
We should have enough firepower to get past the lower league side and show that we have learnt from the third round troubles we had against Rochdale.
Who should start instead of Maguire?
The return to fitness of Axel Tuanzebe is a timely boost for Solskjaer, the academy graduate has to be a certain starter in the three upcoming cup ties.
The 22-year-old will be hoping to impress on his return and crank the pressure up on Victor Lindelöf once again.
Solskjaer has shown his faith in Lindelöf on a number of occasions this season despite the Swede having some tough moments.
The former Benfica man should be rested alongside Maguire and that would give Marcos Rojo the opportunity to build on some impressive performances.
With Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw and Timothy Fosu-Mensah all on the comeback trail too, Solskjaer could have a clean bill of health in the defensive department.
There is no denying the improvement Maguire has brought to United’s defence, but it would be foolish of Solskjaer to risk his key defender in the upcoming cup clashes.
An injury to the 26-year-old at this stage of the season could have massive repercussions on United’s revival.
Wrap him up in cotton wool Ole.
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