Football: Backs-to-the-wall defending really enjoyable, says Maguire

Manchester United's Harry Maguire during the match against West Ham United on Oct 30, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – Manchester United captain Harry Maguire is looking forward to some dogged defending alongside Lisandro Martinez that helped the team keep a clean sheet in their hard-fought 1-0 Premier League win over West Ham in late October.

That match was the last time the Red Devils played at home, before they beat Real Sociedad 1-0 away and lost 3-1 at Aston Villa last weekend.

Just four days on from the Premier League loss at Villa Park, the two sides meet again on Thursday, this time back at Old Trafford in the League Cup third round.

Maguire, who will hope to start after being on the bench on Sunday, previewed the game in place of manager Erik ten Hag.

He said that he thoroughly enjoyed the “backs-to-the-wall” defensive work in the closing stages against West Ham, when the team defended with their lives to clinch the three points.

“As a centre-back, and a centre-back who likes to defend the box, it’s really – the last 20 minutes against West Ham – enjoyable,” he said on Wednesday on the United Review, the official matchday programme.

“Although they are really tense, it’s something that me and Licha (Martinez) were speaking about, they’re the moments you want to play for.

“You want to defend, you want to hold on to that clean sheet, do everything you can to keep the ball out of the back of the net and I think we did it really well in the last 20 minutes.

“It’s something that we’ll work on but, for sure, as a centre-back that’s what you enjoy, that’s what you want to do.”

He also said that it is important for United to keep their focus against Thursday’s opponents, whom they had already lost to, and that he wants to win a trophy this season.

“I think in all the Cup competitions, we want to go as far as we can,” he said.

“We had a really poor season last year in the Premier League and also in the Cups.

“In the Cups, we went out far too early to teams where we feel like we shouldn’t be going out to.

“So we’ve got to get that right this year. We’ve got to be fully focused for each competition.”

United have had mixed results in the League Cup.

The five-time winners most recently won the competition in 2016-17 under Jose Mourinho, and have reached the semi-finals twice. But they have also lost in the third round the same number of times.

Playing at home, however, ten Hag should see an improved performance from his men, who have kept five consecutive clean sheets at Old Trafford, and have also won their last three games there in all competitions.

Raphael Varane remains out as he races against time to be fit for the World Cup, while Jadon Sancho and Antony are doubts.

Villa manager Unai Emery started his reign with a win against United and had previously said that he wants to win titles with his new team.

But he will first be looking to end a five-game winless away run. They have also failed to score in three of their last four away encounters.

Speaking to Spanish news outlet Marca on Tuesday, the former Arsenal boss said he is relishing a new challenge in England.

“I am better prepared,” he said. “I already have a year and four months of experience in this league.

“I think my first year at Arsenal was nice. It was broken by some things that I have identified that I am now going to try to avoid.

“I am coming back better prepared and I think that, at Villarreal, I have acquired a continuity that has made them call me back from England. It’s more of a challenge than a rematch.”

Injured Brazilian pair Diego Carlos and Philippe Coutinho are sidelined for this game. AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.