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Harry Maguire is not Paolo Maldini but he has what it takes to become a Man United legend

The country's favourite head may be Old Trafford-bound...

Harry Maguire is riding the crest of a sizeable wave after an impressive World Cup.

At the dizzying height of the tournament, England fans singled him out for special treatment, partly because of the sheer volume of headers he won in both boxes.

Such a trait is distinctly English, endearingly old-fashioned, and undeniably effective.


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Keep count if you can

AFP
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Keep count if you can

As Gareth Southgate’s men ventured to the semi-finals, there was a hushed belief that the considerable mass of Maguire’s head could cancel out England’s weaknesses.

Then there was the other side to his game — the modern, foreign-influenced side.

In combination with John Stones and Kyle Walker, he would resist the urge to kick long and proceed to calmly play the ball out from the back.

And if the situation was right, he would surge forward and carry the ball 20 yards, 30 yards, 40 yards even.

It takes bravery to put your head in where the boots are flying.

For English centre-backs, it takes just as much to dribble out of defence and commit men up the pitch.

Champagne quality

PA:Empics Sport
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Champagne quality

In typical post-World Cup fashion, he is now being linked with a big-money move to Man United.

Let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that Maguire is Paolo Maldini part two — he has his limitations.

But while he may not be in the top bracket of defenders worldwide, it’s not inconceivable that he could become a Man United legend.

A glimpse into the future?

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A glimpse into the future?

His old-school English grit and modernist ball-playing instincts make him a hybrid suited to the Premier League in its current state.

We’ve seen good defenders in the top flight come undone by their awkwardness in possession, and we’ve seen ball-playing centre-backs bullied out of games by physical forwards.

Maguire’s strengths make him invulnerable to such traps.

The most valuable attribute for a centre-back is not tackling, positioning or intelligence; it’s consistency.

Maguire’s steady rise to prominence has been impressive

REUTERS
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Maguire’s steady rise to prominence has been impressive

When playing for a top team, simply avoiding costly errors counts for a lot.

The best centre-backs of all time produced consecutive 7/10 performances for months at a time.

Their managers could write their name on the teamsheet without the need for a even moment’s debate.

This is Dejan Lovren’s tragic flaw.

He has all the attributes to be a good defender but he’s prone to high-profile mistakes.

And that’s what gets remembered, particularly if you represent a club with trophy ambitions.

Maguire has what it takes to be a consistent performer for United — 7/10 every week.

Ten good games in a row come undone if you cost your team in the 11th

Reuters
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Ten good games in a row come undone if you cost your team in the 11th

Given the existing good will towards Maguire after the World Cup, all it would take is two months of heading everything clear, a few line-breaking passes to the midfield, and he’d be a fan favourite.

He could be what United fans hoped Chris Smalling and/or Phil Jones would become.

Remember that famous Sir Alex Ferguson quote?

“Jones, arguably the way he is looking, could be our best ever player.”

Fergie’s prophecy looks set to go unfulfilled but more abstractly, you could take it to mean that a player of Jones’ profile is suited to United stardom.

Defensively, there’s not much between Jones and Maguire, the latter is simply more reliable, he plays like in-form Jones all season long.

A summer to savour

Getty - Contributor
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A summer to savour

While Jose Mourinho would expect Maguire to perform to a high level from the get-go, evidence suggests the 25-year-old is still developing and improving.

Every transfer has triggered an evolution.

He was Sheffield United’s Player of the Year three seasons in a row before moving to Hull.

The Tigers were relegated in 2016/17 despite Maguire’s heroic efforts and he was rewarded with a transfer to Leicester in the summer of 2017.

Despite Jamie Vardy’s 20-goal haul last season, Maguire was named the Foxes’ Player of the Season by the fans and his team-mates.

Once a Blade, always a Blade

Getty Images - Getty
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Once a Blade, always a Blade

It’s testament to his importance to every club he’s played for that, in seven full seasons as a professional, he’s been named Player of the Year five times.

Consistency.

History is littered with ill-judged signings executed in the aftermath of a World Cup.

But for Maguire, the summer of 2018 could be more than the highlight of his career, it could be the start of it.


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