Harry Maguire will head into England duty next week having re-established himself as Manchester United’s first-choice defender.
When Gareth Southgate’s side met in October, Maguire had made just two starts all season for Erik ten Hag’s side, but he has been a consistent presence in the starting XI since then, usually partnering veteran Jonny Evans, as did Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof. wait for your time.
Maguire and Evans are not the pair many expected to see in the summer, when Maguire was linked with a move away from Old Trafford and Evans was a free agent after leaving relegated Leicester.
Evans’ injury will lead to changes for the visit of Luton on Saturday but Ten Hag said Maguire gave former Real defender Varane, a key part of last season’s success, his due.
“Harry Maguire is doing very well at the moment and I’m very happy about that,” he said. “As I’ve always said, Harry Maguire can do the job – and now he’s showing he can do the job.
“Harry didn’t play much last year, so I was very pleased with Rafa’s performances. I have always been pleased with his performance. But at the moment Harry is playing very well and there is internal competition.”
Ten Hag believes Maguire and Varane are in direct competition for the right side of central defence. Although Maguire has spent most of his career on the left flank, Ten Hag is not happy with his team’s balance with the 30-year-old.
“There are times in some games where they can play together and they have already proven they can do that,” he said. “But the formation is not as fluid when one of them plays on the left.”
Last season, Varane’s partnership with Lisandro Martinez, protected by Casemiro, helped United win the League Cup and return to the Champions League. But with Martinez and Casemiro currently out injured along with Luke Shaw and Varane out of favour, the situation now looks different.
“Injuries don’t help us,” Ten Hag said. “Very often you have to change four defenders and then you don’t understand the routine. At times like these, it is so important to have a daily routine.
“We have a new goalkeeper (Andre Onana) and every time you put in a new back four, they know the rules and principles, but the routine is not the same.
“Communication is very important, but these are all split-second decisions. You need that cooperation and you need it 100 percent because when it doesn’t work, you concede goals at this level.”
Wednesday’s dramatic 4-3 Champions League defeat in Copenhagen made it nine defeats from 17 games in all competitions for United this season, increasing pressure on Ten Hag as anticipation continues for Sir Jim Ratcliffe to buy a minority stake in the club. completed.
“Nothing has changed (in our approach),” Ten Hag added. “We still have the same problems because we are not in the best moment, but I think I see us going forward, like at Fulham (1-0 win last weekend) and I think that Copenhagen was a very good game and we must build on that.
“Andre Onana came as a newcomer and has strengthened in recent games, Rasmus Hoylund is a new striker, he has arrived and is gaining momentum. This is a good thing.
“We’ve had a good balance in midfield over the last two games and hopefully we can maintain that without any more injuries in those departments and then I think we can really improve and be successful this season.”