Man Utd star has been vital missing ingredient as Erik Ten Hag's tactical tweak seals win over Copenhagen | The Sun

BEFORE the start of the season, Harry Maguire looked destined to leave Manchester United.

A transfer offer from West Ham had been accepted and it appeared to be a matter of time before Maguire would move on, until the deal fell through at the 11th hour.

And recent evidence from games against Sheffield United and Copenhagen suggests Maguire staying at Old Trafford was in the best interests of all parties.

Maguire always backs himself and in recent weeks he gave an interview where he pointed out his win percentage under Erik ten Hag.

Which at the time of the interview, stood at 77 per cent.

Whether this had any influence on Ten Hag’s decision to bring Maguire back into the team is unknown.



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Indeed, injury to Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof's poor form may have forced his hand.

In the last two matches for United, both of which have ended in wins, Maguire has started to show signs of being the answer to the issues United have had in terms of building out from the back.

In this article, we will look at some of the key tactical points surrounding the reintroduction of Maguire to the first team.

Composure on the ball

There is a new phenomenon in top level of football when teams are building out from the back that shows central defenders, or even goalkeepers, pausing in possession and putting their foot on the ball.

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This started at the Premier League level last season with Brighton under Roberto De Zerbi but it has now spread amongst most top teams.

The idea of a player in the build-up phase stopping the ball and putting his foot on it is intended to draw the opposition team on to make them try to press the build-up.

As teams look to press in this way they then leave space between the pressing player or players and the next line of the defensive block and this space can be played into.

Having central defenders who have the ability to play in this manner allows the game to develop around them.

Composure in possession allows attackers and midfielders to lose their markers or to rotate into areas in which they can receive the ball in space.

Crucially, in these situations Maguire has the ability and the confidence to play these passes effectively.

Maguire is the centre-back in the United squad who is best placed to play these passes and to show composure when playing out from the back.

Raphael Varane is not known for his ability to play from the back, while Lindelof is not comfortable enough in possession.

Maguire has previously been criticised for making mistakes when playing out from the back this was before United had Andre Onana as the first passer from the back.

With more minutes in his legs, it is likely that Maguire will continue to be the defender that United look to in order to break the lines and build their attack.

Breaking lines

Building out from the back is a difficult thing to get right if you do not have central defenders who are confident in possession of the ball.

Ten Hag is known to favour a style playing out from the back, and with Maguire he has a central defender who is comfortable in possession.

With the right structures around him and with midfielders and wide players who understand how to find space and to receive the ball, Maguire’s ability on the ball can be a huge plus for United.

When a team want to play from the back and play through the opposition press having central defenders who are not comfortable when making these passes can be hugely problematic.

If a central defender tries to make a line-breaking pass but gives the ball away then they can leave themselves open to an immediate transition from the opposition.

This is where United have, at times, struggled due to Varane being less confident when he looks to play these line-breaking passes into the opposition half.

If United are to continue to try to build out from the back in this way then it is essential that they have a player who can break the lines effectively.

Ten Hag appears to be set to start trusting Maguire more in this role.

Carrying the ball out

Maguire has long had a reputation as a central defender who is capable of stepping out from the back in possession of the ball and carrying it into the midfield.

Having a central defender who is capable of doing this can cause chaos for the opposition defensive block as it can create an overload in the midfield for the team in possession.

If the player who is carrying the ball into the midfield is also capable of showing composure and then breaking the lines then this becomes a very effective weapon.

While no manager really wants their central defenders to constantly step into midfield in possession it is something that can help teams to dominate games.

Defenders do not even have to step all of the way forward into the midfield to provoke a reaction and to make a difference, they just have to have the confidence to step forward a few steps.

Unfortunately, this is again a situation where Varane is not completely comfortable and as such the presence of Maguire in the United team has a real benefit when the team are looking to build their attack.

There is no doubt that Ten Hag needs a central defender who can step in and be proactive and aggressive in possession of the ball.

While Lindelof, Varane or even Martinez are not necessarily comfortable in this role there is no doubt that Maguire can be.


Ten Hag has not really reinvented Maguire as a ball-playing central defender, rather Maguire has always had this profile and Ten Hag is starting to trust him more to be the main ball progressor.

The Dutchman has created a team structure better placed to allow a defender to move the ball out from the back in a secure way.

Indeed, for all that Ten Hag has tried to create a team that can dominate the ball he has not had a central defender who is capable of progressing the ball. 

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