Manchester United great Andrew Cole expects Erik ten Hag to act decisively on Harry Maguire’s future at the end of the season, having found a “brilliant” defensive duo in Rafael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.
Maguire has struggled for regular minutes since Ten Hag took charge last year, making just five starts during an encouraging Premier League campaign for the Red Devils.
The defender, who was included in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for games against Italy and Ukraine on Thursday, has been linked with a departure after seeing Varane and Martinez establish themselves as regulars.
Ten Hag has made some big decisions since arriving at Old Trafford, not least the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and Cole expects him to be just as firm on Maguire.
Asked about Maguire’s future, Cole told Stats Perform: “It ultimately depends on the manager. I think Manchester United have really struggled for years to find defensive partners.
“If you look at the money they spent on centre-backs… Maguire, [Victor] Lindelof, [Eric] Bayi, obviously, now Varane and Martinez.
“It’s five and if you look at the money they’ve spent, it’s easily over £200m on centre-backs. I think now they finally have a partnership that looks right.
“It was difficult for Maguire. He wrestled at the end of last season, went to the World Cup and did well, came back and fought for Manchester United.
“The manager made the decision to select these two, Varane and Martinez, who were just great.”
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Speaking about Ten Hag’s management style, Cole added: “In today’s football, it’s important to manage people.
“You manage and massage the ego, that’s what football is.
“It’s not like you can treat everyone the same. They are not all the same, some respond to things better than others.
“From the outside it looks like he [Ten Hag] very disciplined. The players respect him, he respects the players and gets the most out of them, that’s what you want.”
United will play Real Betis in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday ahead of the Premier League home game against Fulham on Sunday.