Erik ten Hag Confirms Club Captain Harry Maguire Isn’t a Guaranteed Starter From Now On

Harry Maguire

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has reportedly told his four first-choice centre-backs he will be implementing a “rotation policy” for the season ahead, according to Telegraph Sport, which raises further questions about Harry Maguire.

Erik ten Hag Will Be Rotating All Four First-Choice Centre-Backs

Which Pairing Has Been the Most Successful So Far?

The decision came into action when Ten Hag opted to leave club captain Harry Maguire on the substitutes bench for one of United’s most important fixtures of the season – facing Liverpool at Old Trafford. He instead deployed Raphael Varane and new summer signing Lisandro Martinez, with Bruno Fernandes donning the armband for the night.

It was the first time the two defenders had been deployed alongside each other in the league and portrayed one of the strongest and most convincing performances a United pairing had offered in a long time. Together, they completed: 100 per cent dribbles, 75 per cent aerial duels, 16 clearances, eight headed clearances and seven ball recoveries, as well as won five tackles, three blocks and two interceptions.

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Whilst a second-half goal from Mohamed Salah prevented the, perhaps deserved, clean sheet, the Frenchman and Argentine managed to keep Liverpool’s attackers quiet – so much so that Jurgen Klopp’s men managed only five shots on target and one goal despite having 71 per cent possession.

The pair have since been labelled “absolutely phenomenal” by Red Devils fans for their stellar display, with Martinez being voted Man of the Match by United fans. There was consequently no place for Maguire on the day, who spent the full game on the bench.

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Manchester United’s Dismal Display Against Brentford

Against Brentford, Martinez started alongside Harry Maguire but was substituted for Varane at half-time after the team conceded four goals in 35 minutes. Whilst United’s performance across the pitch was dismal overall, the backline were undoubtedly poor. The first goal came from a shocking goalkeeping error from David de Gea and the second goal showed the club’s clear inability to play out from the back – a tactic which was quickly scrapped by the Liverpool game.

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It was rumoured that Thomas Frank had ordered his forwards to target Martinez due to his height compared to the likes of the Brentford attackers, yet Ivan Toney confirmed this was not the case. It was Frank’s approach of constant pressing that made United crumble under the pressure and incapable of maintaining any possession, to then finish the match week rock bottom of the Premier League table.

Opening Day Saw United Begin With a Loss

Rewind to opening day and Ten Hag’s first competitive game in charge of the Reds ended in a 2-1 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion. He began the season showing his faith in the partnership of Martinez and Maguire, and despite the loss, the former Ajax man put in an impressive shift. The 24-year-old completed 100 per cent dribbles, seven long passes, four clearances, three shots, two interceptions and two blocks, whilst having a 93 per cent pass accuracy.

Victor Lindelof has missed his side’s first three league games through injury. He will likely make an appearance once fit, however it’s unconfirmed who Ten Hag will partner him with.

Maguire is left in a difficult situation, in which he knows his place in the starting line-up is not guaranteed like it has been in previous seasons. Fernandes showed all the leadership qualities fans would want to see from their captain, and even Varane was spotted rallying his teammates throughout the Liverpool game and motivating the defenders to continue in their relentless efforts.

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The five-time Champions League winner has fallen victim to numerous injuries since his move to Manchester but has looked a dominant figure when on the pitch. In the league, when the 29-year-old plays, United have won 11, drawn eight and lost five games. Whereas when Varane hasn’t featured, they have won six games, drawn two and lost nine – making his impact evident.

Next Up: Southampton

Ten Hag and his players travel to Southampton on Saturday, August 27 in a bid to pick up their second win of the season. It could prove to be a difficult early kick-off, as the team have scored at least one goal in all three games so far. Unless there are fitness concerns amongst the back four, the Dutchman should realistically deploy the same backline he chose against Liverpool, especially if he follows what United fans are asking for.

He could, however, test the waters and bring back the England international to give him a chance to prove his ability against a less fearsome opponent than last season’s FA Cup winners.