Football Features

Harry Maguire has instantly become Man Utd’s best CB – but how do the others compare?

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 14:08, 6 August 2019

Manchester United have finally got their man.

After going back and forth this summer, and with only a few days before the 2019/20 season gets underway, the Red Devils matched Leicester City’s £80m valuation for centre-back Harry Maguire subsequently making him the most expensive defender in history.

It is no secret that United desperately needed defensive reinforcements after shipping in 54 goals last season, more than in any other Premier League season. Following Aaron Wan-Bissaka – signed from Crystal Palace for £50m – Maguire is the second new face brought in to strengthen their rearguard.

But just how much of a difference will Maguire make? We compared him to United’s defenders last season to see how the 20-time capped England international matches up with his new team-mates.

Defence

Despite the huge fee United have been forced to shell out for Maguire, it is not necessarily his defending which makes him so sought after.

To an extent, his stats reflect this. Per 90 minutes, he lies in the middle for blocks and at the bottom for tackles made when compared to his future team-mates. Surprisingly, he is actually the only one of the group to make an error leading to a goal last season as well. It must be considered, however, that Jones and Bailly played significantly less than the other three last season, meaning their statistics aren’t necessarily a fair reflection of their ability.

Maguire heads interceptions, which is something United should be excited about. He is known for his eagerness to get on the front foot, take the game to the opposition and his willingness to come out of defence with or without the ball.

Distribution

As everybody knows, defenders are not just needed to defend nowadays. Maguire is the epitome of this: his USP is his remarkable ability on the ball, something which should give United the advantage over their rivals.

Stats certainly don’t tell the entire story here. Maguire may have the lowest passing accuracy out of all the centre-backs on show, but there is a simple explanation for this: he is far more progressive with his passing. He made more passes ending in the final third per 90 minutes than all four of the other centre-backs combined. If there was ever a stat which summed up a player, it is that.

He dwarfs United’s current options in terms of passes in the opposition half too, making 12 more per 90 minutes than Lindelof and 16 more than Smalling. Despite Bailly boasting more dribbles completed per 90 minutes, no centre-back completed more take-ons than Maguire in the league last season (97). Granted, this isn’t necessarily what he’s there for, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

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Duels

As you would expect with the nickname ‘Slabhead’, Maguire certainly competes hard on the pitch.

He comfortably tops regulars Smalling and Lindelof with his percentage of duels won: again it’s the injury-prone Bailly who is the only one to have a superior number. Looking at these stats, it appears United could have something special if Bailly could keep fit. Unfortunately, a knee injury obtained in pre-season means Solskjaer will have to wait.

Maguire boasts a very impressive number of aerial duels won per 90 but, amazingly, Chris Smalling actually wins more per 90 on average. Having said that, Maguire’s numbers are still mightily impressive. His possession lost, however, is not. Again a product of his adventurous style, Maguire gives the ball away nearly twice as much as both Lindelof and Smalling. High risk, high reward is what he’ll argue, and we’re sure United fans won’t mind Maguire giving it away as much as he does given his other fantastic attributes.

Maguire will have a massive role in any success United may have next season. He will revolutionise their style of play and, if things go according to plan, it may be £80m well spent.

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