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bad calls Solskjaer’s gamble on Maguire’s fitness has backfired as Reds defence struggles


Manchester United's Harry Maguire may not be fully fit. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Manchester United's Harry Maguire may not be fully fit. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Manchester United's Harry Maguire may not be fully fit. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

It has emerged that Harry Maguire was up to 10 days away from being ready to play when the Manchester United captain was thrown into the team that faced Leicester City last month – putting more question marks over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s judgement calls.

The United manager’s decision to rush back Maguire for the 4-2 defeat at King Power Stadium has come under growing scrutiny given the England defender’s woeful form since returning from a three-week lay off with a calf injury.

Maguire had only one day of full training on the grass before being parachuted back into the team at Leicester, even though it is understood he was between seven and 10 days short of being match ready.

Well-placed sources indicated that Maguire should have sat out the Leicester game and the Champions League tie against Atalanta at Old Trafford four days later, and a decision then taken over his availability for the Liverpool match on October 24.

Instead, Maguire played the full 90 minutes in all three games and was at fault for a number of goals during error-strewn performances when he looked well short of fitness, not least the 5-0 capitulation against Liverpool.

He also played a full game in the 3-0 win over Tottenham on Saturday, when United claimed only a second clean sheet in 22 games, before his struggles continued in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against Atalanta in Bergamo. United have now conceded 13 goals in their past five matches.

However, with Raphaël Varane succumbing to a hamstring injury in Italy, less than a week after the France centre-half’s return from a groin injury, and likely to miss the Saturday lunchtime game at home to champions Manchester City and doubts over Victor Lindelof’s fitness, Maguire is again expected to start at the weekend.

Varane was ruled out for “a few weeks” by United on October 12 but returned against Spurs, only to be forced off in the 38th minute of the Atalanta match after going down with no one around him.

He was due to be fully assessed yesterday. Lindelof missed the Atalanta match after picking up an injury in training on Monday and will also be examined before City.

Gary Neville had questioned the wisdom of the decision to start Maguire against Leicester when the former United captain claimed the defender was “absolutely nowhere near [fit enough]” – and wondered whether Varane’s absence at the time had prompted Solskjaer into rushing the player back.

Paul Scholes also raised concerns about Maguire’s fitness in the wake of the Atalanta game and suggested Varane’s likely absence against City could present a big headache for Solskjaer.

“When Varane went off, it seemed to go all over the place again,” the former United midfielder said.

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“They were really shaky, the quality in the middle of the pitch wasn’t great again, giving the ball away far too often.

“I don’t know if Harry Maguire is still injured or he has got a hangover from the Euros, but he doesn’t look right. He’s not with it at the minute,” he added.

“With a performance like that second half, and no Varane on Saturday, it has to be a worry. City will think they have a good chance of winning, and with no Varane it makes it more difficult for United.”

Maguire is known to have a high pain threshold and has bounced back from injuries quickly in the past, but this time is proving different with the defender struggling for not having a longer recuperation period.

He missed the final five matches of last season for United, including the Europa League final defeat to Villarreal, with ankle ligament damage but had returned in six weeks to start England’s final group stage match of the Euros against the Czech Republic.

He continued to impress during England’s run to the final against Italy and was named in Uefa’s team of the tournament.

In January 2020, there were concerns Maguire could be out for a period after suffering a minor hip-muscle tear but he returned very quickly and did not look impeded by the problem over the remainder of that season.

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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