Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka made their Premier League debuts on Sunday for Manchester United to critical acclaim. The two made a massive difference to the team but what do they really bring to the Red Devils?
Manchester United’s first Premier League match of the season saw a hammering of a familiar foe in Chelsea. The start was perfect for United. However, there was something noticeable about their performance - the defence. Since Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic last played for the Red Devils, United’s defence has been riddled with chaos, disorganisation, lack of communication and leadership. On Sunday, their defence had some form of control and solidity.
New additions Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka started Sunday’s game and you could tell there was something different. There was an element of control and assertiveness. It has been a long time since the crowd at Old Trafford greeted a normal tackle with passionate jubilation.
Wan-Bissaka arrived at United for £50 million to replace the ageing Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, wingers who were converted into full-backs through necessity. Although the two tried to do the job for a while, long-term it seemed they were unsuitable for the position, especially on the defensive side of things.
Last season was the testament of the crumbling Red Devils defence which saw them keep just two clean sheets in 19 home league games. Maguire arrived to United from Leicester City for £80 million and just like Wan-Bissaka, he intercepted, built attacks from the back, showed his physical presence and demonstrated leadership that has been lacking at Old Trafford.
The two players will certainly improve Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Wan-Bissaka, for instance, is building a reputation as one of the best defensive full-backs in the league at only 21 years of age. This, of course, shouldn’t come as any surprise. He made the third-most (129) tackles of any player in the Premier League last season and the second-most interceptions (84).
The Red Devils have suffered in defence for the last few years due to lack of investment in the area. At the moment, in Wan-Bissaka and Maguire, United have players who can stabilise their shaky defence and make it a title-contending one.
Maguire started alongside Victor Lindelöf in central defence on Sunday. Both possess the composure and ability to pick a pass or carry the ball forward, enabling United to play front-foot football.
With that performance against Chelsea, the English international showed the commanding presence which was reminiscent of greats like Ferdinand and Vidic.
Maguire may not be the complete defender but he appears to be a player that possesses the attributes Solskjaer’s team need, including aerial prowess and an ability to play out confidently. The price tag will definitely hover on the head of the towering centre back.
Although Wan-Bissaka and Maguire don’t make United title contenders this season, they are a starting point in their rebuilding. The Red Devils are probably one injury away from a crisis but their defence is something they will hope to pride themselves with this season. Solskjaer’s does look at least a midfielder short following the departures of Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini but 22-year-old Scott McTominay is gradually improving his game.
Since Alex Ferguson left the club as champions United have struggled, finishing seventh, fourth, fifth, sixth, second and sixth. Wan-Bissaka and Maguire might just be the start of something special at the once rampant United.