Harry Maguire’s first Premier League season as a Manchester United player is complete.
The centre-back has often struggled to win plaudits, as his hefty transfer fee has put unrealistic expectations on him.
BBC Sport pundit Garth Crooks did though this week select Maguire in his Premier League team of the season, a pick which did not go down well with rival fans.
When it comes to choosing Manchester United’s player of the season, star man Bruno Fernandes has an increasingly strong shout, as does impressive forward Anthony Martial.
But it’s also possible to make a case for Maguire too, so here are three reasons why the club captain should be in with a shout…
He has coped with insane amount of pressure
Maguire was Manchester United’s most expensive summer signing of 2019, for a staggering £80 million.
Maguire plainly is not worth this extravagant figure, few are, yet we can also separate him from it, and appreciate how he has excelled despite it.
What the fee does do is emphasise every minor error he makes. All defenders make errors. Maguire’s are under the spotlight and go viral.
Maguire’s mental strength is that he does not let it phase him. Even after his slip against Tottenham to concede Steven Bergwijn’s goal, he bounced back to nullify the threat of England teammate Harry Kane.
The centre-back did not let taking the captaincy distract him. Instead he has embraced it, and his teammates clearly respect the leadership he has brought to the team.
United conceded only 36 goals in 38 games, just one more than City and three more than Liverpool.
Last season United conceded 54 goals and had a worse defensive record than Newcastle.
Maguire has been key to fixing an under-performing defence and deserves credit. One or two minor individual errors should not undermine this.
Every minute of every game
One of the reasons you have to attribute United’s defensive improvement to Harry Maguire is that he has played in every minute of every Premier League game.
In the process he became the first Manchester United defender to do so since former title winner Gary Pallister.
Maguire is a player who manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly depends on, and feels he cannot be without.
There is also something to be said for Maguire’s durability. You only have to look at Eric Bailly’s problems over the last four years to see that talent alone will only get you so far.
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and now Axel Tuanzebe are among the United centre-backs through the years to struggle for fitness. Maguire just keeps on going strong.
United needed a defender the club could rely on to be fit on a weekly basis, and Maguire has fulfilled that role.
Stepped up at key moments
One of the reasons United can also trust Maguire comes down to his impact in the final two matches of the season.
United could not afford any defeats in games against West Ham and Leicester City.
Maguire was among United’s best players in both matches, keeping his head at a moment of real pressure. Up against Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy, Maguire came out on top.
Yet you can also point to other key moments he played for United across the season.
His goal at Stamford Bridge as United beat Chelsea was crucial, as was his extra-time winner in the FA Cup quarter-final against Norwich.
Defensively he has made United hard to beat, and you only need to look at the Carabao Cup first leg when Phil Jones filled in for him to see what the side looks like without him.
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