Harry Maguire blocks everything for Manchester United
December 03, 2023
Once a meme, now Manchester United’s best-performing player on the night against Newcastle, Harry Maguire is in good form. He has displaced Raphael Varane at right center-back because he needs to always play on the right.
Erik Ten Hag put it simply in this press conference, in March last season:
“When you are left-footed, your better angles, and Harry can play with the left, but the right is obviously much better. […]
And how do we help him with [improving]? We do the training to give him coaching, give him instructions, but also not that long ago, I showed him a video on how to outplay opponents, how he can have more impact in possession and building up with his skills. Because his skills are really high. He’s really high-skilled for a center-back. He has so many skills, and he has to use that in a game.”
They will only play Harry Maguire on the right because the angles are better. It’s either right center-back or the bench. That not only applies to passing but it also applies to tackling and blocking.
He is very good at making himself big. Show the defender inside and then make yourself big to block the pass or shot.
Make himself big, then close down the space in one swift motion.
Show them inside because he can control the shot with his size; he can’t control what the other defenders behind him are doing to defend a cross or cut-back. Then close down the space big, angling the body to lead with the dominant right foot and hip.
This is the benefit of the angles at right center-back. To block a cross, he is using his stronger right foot. He’ll have more control with his stronger foot.
And then he has great quickness to pair with his size. He was everywhere within the box, blocking everything.
The technique to leave a trailing foot to block the cut-back pass was superb.
His only glaring mistake came during Newcastle’s goal, the only goal of the game. At this point, Manchester United had withstood a barrage of attacks from Newcastle because United struggled to build up or maintain possession. One shot was bound to go in.
It was fine to initially jump out, but he should have realized that Bruno Guimaraes was fully covered, and then he should have quickly moved back into position so that his man behind was covered. Had he been in line with Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Luke Shaw, maybe he might have been able to get a foot on the cross. But the main culprit if you wanted to point a finger you’d point it at Wan-Bissaka for allowing Anthony Gordon to get behind him.
Don’t let that take away from Maguire’s stellar performance. He has been slowly building confidence under Ten Hag, and now he is commanding Manchester United’s back-line. He has always had blind confidence when he spoke, but he never looked sure in-game. He has been less prone to errors, carrying the ball, and distributing with more ease, and he is blocking every pass and shot he comes in close contact with.