Manchester United transfer news: £75m move beckons for Harry Maguire - but is the Leicester man really ready?

A move to a club of United’s profile would certainly represent the realisation of any young footballer’s dreams, but it is necessarily the right one for Maguire at this stage in his career?

Samuel Lovett
Thursday 09 August 2018 09:10 BST
Manchester United 2018/19 Premier League profile

Among the countless tweets, memes and chants that emerged from this summer’s World Cup, there was a particular image of Harry Maguire that really caught the eye. No, not that one. Rather, it was the image of the defender, wearing an England top, perched unassumingly among his friends at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium, just another fan cheering on his country at the 2016 European Championships.

It is a picture that hits home the defender’s remarkable rise from relative obscurity to footballing fame – and a move to Manchester United that could make him the most expensive defender in English history.

But looking past the inevitable fan fluff that now surrounds such a deal, there's only one real question to consider: is he ready?

His performances in Russia suggested as much. Positioned alongside Kyle Walker and John Stones, the 25-year-old was immaculate in England's back three. A looming physical presence, who proved he was capable of shackling player after player at the tournament, Maguire did what was required of him - and much more. Despite heading to Russia with a handful of international caps to his name, he played with the authority and composure of a defender who has seen it all.

More than this, the defender brought a much-welcomed attacking threat to England's set-piece play. A key member of the 'love train', Maguire wreaked havoc against Panama and Colombia as his big, lumbering frame sucked in opposition players to create space for his teammates. The Leicester man was eventually rewarded for his efforts with a goal - that thumping, meat-splitting header which handed England their lead against Sweden.

But United should be weary of jumping to conclusions. His performances in Russia cannot be treated in isolation; consideration must be given to the bigger picture. It's worth remembering that just little over a year ago the Sheffield-born centre-back was still on Hull's books - a relative unknown who had yet to show the sort of talent that would later see him flourish at a World Cup.

His move to Leicester proved to be an inspired one, on both accounts. Having paid out £17m for the defender – a relative bargain by today’s standards – the Foxes stand to make a healthy profit on the Englishman, should they opt to sell. For Maguire, last summer’s transfer kept him in the Premier League and took him to a club where opportunities would, and did, undoubtedly arise for him to make his mark.

Indeed, the sight of a marauding Maguire - galloping forward at pace, with that majestic head of his bobbing effortlessly along like a Churchill dog in the back of a car - became a staple sight at the King Power last season. It's that graceless, cloddish style to his game which makes him such a curious prospect. Appearing both in and out of control simultaneously, you never really know what the defender is going to do next. Once he ventures beyond that half-way line, it’s anyone’s guess.

Harry Maguire remains a transfer target for Manchester United but Leicester do not want to sell (Getty)

And this is the key point. For all his physicality, for all his positioning and for all his genuine potential, Maguire still remains an unfinished product. He is a work in progress. An undeniable talent but one that requires time and patience to draw out the qualities that lay dormant within. His World Cup campaign has somewhat distracted from his flaws which, given his relative youth, are to be expected.

For those who watched him week in, week out across the 2017/18 season, it’s clear that the centre-back can be guilty of overplaying the ball. There are times, in those tenacious surges forward, when Maguire has found himself caught in possession and exposed at the back. This confidence can be both a blessing and a curse for a side, though his performances in Russia showed that he is coming to understand when it is appropriate to embark on one of his wandering gallivants.

A move to a club of Manchester United’s calibre and profile would certainly represent the realisation of any young footballer’s dreams, but it is necessarily the right one at this point in time? And, more importantly, will Jose Mourinho’s system suit a player of his nature? Gareth Southgate’s system in Russia afforded Maguire the opportunities to push on when he did but, if Mourinho’s past teams are anyway to go by, it’s hard to imagine the centre-back enjoying the same license to roam.

Maguire impressed at the World Cup (AP)

On a financial level – for Leicester, that is – the smart move would naturally be to sell Maguire. Valued at £65m, this would be the club’s second mega deal of the summer following the departure of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City. And with the former champions set to sign two new centre-backs – Caglar Soyuncu, from Freiburg, and Filip Benkovic, of Dynamo Zagreb – Leicester are more than prepared for Maguire’s exit.

But, from the Englishman’s perspective, he must think twice about what comes next should he join United. Will it be another season of continued improvement and personal development at one of football’s biggest clubs? Or, alternatively, will it be a season of disappointment and unfulfilled potential at a club that is turning increasingly toxic under Mourinho’s gathering storm clouds? With the clock ticking down, Maguire has a potentially career-defining decision to make.

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