Maguire's money well spent

Anthony Martial holding off a challenge from Cesar Azpilicueta to knock home their second goal past Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa.
Anthony Martial holding off a challenge from Cesar Azpilicueta to knock home their second goal past Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa.PHOTO: REUTERS
While Harry Maguire (above) shored up Manchester United's rearguard, his attacking teammates ran riot by penetrating Chelsea's defence four times.
While Harry Maguire (above) shored up Manchester United's rearguard, his attacking teammates ran riot by penetrating Chelsea's defence four times.

World's costliest defender has coach, pundits purring after imperious display in United win

LONDON • Harry Maguire began the task of repaying his world record £80 million (S$134 million) fee for a defender in commanding fashion for Manchester United on Sunday.

They ran out 4-0 winners in the Premier League for their biggest victory against Chelsea since March 1965, but it was their assuredness at the back that caught the eye after recording just two league clean sheets at home all of last season.

The winning margin did not quite tell the full story, however, particularly a first half in which Frank Lampard's players often gave their hosts the run-around, hitting the woodwork twice as well as creating all sorts of danger.

United won 63 per cent of the aerial duels contested and a large part of that was down to England defender Maguire. No player won more headers.

He also topped the list for clearances (seven) and interceptions (four), and was dribbled past zero times, leaving former United manager Jose Mourinho to hail the player "as solid as a rock".

His teammates were also clinical at the other end despite the Blues dominating for long spells and having more shots on goal (seven to five). Marcus Rashford opened the scoring from the spot in the first half after Kurt Zouma had brought him down in the box clumsily.

FRESH ADDITION TO THE BACK

He's done exactly what we signed him for - his presence in both boxes, his composure and calmness on the ball, and he is a leader.

OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, Manchester United manager, approving of Harry Maguire's debut showing.

It was over after the break when Anthony Martial bundled in the ball from close range, before Rashford burst and latched on to Paul Pogba's long pass to fire home in the space of two minutes.

Substitute Daniel James then made it a debut to remember after notching his first strike for United via a big deflection.

But talk afterwards was all about the hosts' revamped defence led by Maguire and fellow summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who won more tackles (six) than any other player.

Of his new star recruit, who was named man of the match, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "He's done exactly what we signed him for - his presence in both boxes, his composure and calmness on the ball, and he is a leader."

Maguire also vowed to turn Old Trafford into "a fortress", adding: "It is a great start for myself and the team. We rode our luck a bit first half, but second (half), we were much more ourselves. We knew there were only two clean sheets here last year. We've got to make this our place to come and score. We're not getting carried away."

Pundits and teammates were similarly impressed, with Pogba calling him "The Beast", and former United captain Gary Neville tweeting he "loved" what he saw.

Mourinho told Sky Sports that Maguire's partnership with Victor Lindelof had the makings of a "very good couple", adding: "Not just the tactical knowledge, but that personality, that sense of reading the game, being alert all the time, the confidence to play."

Questions, though, will be asked of Chelsea's decision to let experienced Brazil defender David Luiz leave to join Arsenal as their vulnerability to counter-attacks was badly exposed.

It was a chastening experience for Lampard on his managerial debut for the Blues and he also had to endure the familiar "sacked in the morning" chant after James' strike.

But the former Chelsea great, who was barred from signing players in the transfer window owing to Fifa's ban and missing several key players, refused to make excuses, admitting his team had received "a reality check" and there were "loads of lessons for us".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2019, with the headline 'Maguire's money well spent'. Print Edition | Subscribe