The centre of defence has been a problem position for Manchester United for all of Sir Alex Ferguson’s successors since 2013 – will new signing Harry Maguire prove the solution?
United have confirmed the signing of Maguire from Leicester City, reportedly for a world-record £80million fee for a defender.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping the England international can have a similar impact to that of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool. Is he the right man? Here’s how his stats compared to United’s existing options last season.
The main area in which Maguire noticeably stands out is his aerial prowess – he won 118 aerial battles in the Premier League last season, 49 more than Lindelof, with the two playing almost the exact same amount of minutes (2,599 for Maguire and 2,602 for Lindelof).
That’s an aerial battle won every 22 minutes for Maguire and every 37 minutes for Lindelof, whilst Jones averages every 27 minutes and Bailly every 49 minutes. But it’s actually Smalling that comes out on top in this regard with an average of every 20 minutes.
Maguire actually averaged fewer tackles per 90 minutes than each of Manchester United’s centre-backs last season. The Leicester man averaged exactly one tackle per game, whilst Bailly, Lindelof and Smalling all averaged 1.3 and Jones 1.1.
Lindelof won 27 of 40 tackles (67.5%) in the Premier League during 2018-19, Jones 13 of 19 (68%), Bailly nine of 15 (60%) and Smalling 17 of 30 (56%), while Maguire had the lowest success-rate with 17 of 31 (54%).
In terms of blunders, Lindelof and Smalling were the only ones to score own goals last season (one each), while Maguire was the only player to commit an error that led directly to an opposition goal (one).
Maguire and Lindelof, while playing almost an almost identical number of minutes, also have a similar defensive record: they both kept just six clean sheets each last season, with 40 goals apiece conceded while they were on the pitch.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 8, 2018
Maguire ran 8.76km per match last season, marginally less than Lindelof (8.88km) and a fair bit less than Smalling (9.36km), while Jones and Bailly’s lower averages are largely down to the cameo nature of many of their appearances (7.05km and 4.95km respectively).
Somewhat belying his clumsy reputation, Jones completed 92.6% of his passes last season, more than Smalling (86.2%), Bailly (87.1%) and Lindelof (89.2%), as well as Maguire (85.6%).
Maguire was the most prolific passer of the lot, though, averaging 56.4 passes per game, more than Smalling (39.8), Jones (41.9), Bailly (25.2) and Lindelof (49.7).
The Leicester defender played considerably more long balls, averaging 6.2 per game, almost three times as many as the United defenders (Smalling and Lindelof averaged 2.1, Jones 2.2 and Bailly 1.6).
One area that Maguire should undoubtedly improve Manchester United is with his dangerous presence in the box at set pieces.
He scored three goals for Leicester last season, more than Manchester United’s centre-halves combined (Smalling and Lindelof scored one each).
Maguire also averages one shot per game, considerably up on Smalling (0.5) and Bailly, Jones and Lindelof (all 0.3). Last season he registered 13 shots on target, compared to just one for Lindelof and Bailly and two for Jones and Smalling.