Manchester United’s ‘will they, won’t they’ saga with Harry Maguire ended on Sunday.
The purchase has made Maguire the most expensive defender in the history of the game but the lateness of his arrival raises questions about how Maguire will integrate into United’s squad.
United’s opening Premier League fixture against Chelsea on Sunday will give him only a week to get to know his teammates. The move evokes memories of another late United transfer when Dimitar Berbatov joined from Spurs on deadline day in 2008.
Speaking on Tuesday morning’s OTB AM, Daniel Harris questioned why Manchester United didn’t push the deal over the line sooner.
“The thing that always sticks in my mind when these kinds of things happen is when United signed Berbatov. They spent all summer haggling over the fee, paid what Spurs wanted anyway and then just threw him in and he never had time to really integrate with his teammates,” he said.
When you’re a central defender communication issues are more pronounced when you’re trying to keep the ball out of the net.
“In terms of communicating with your teammates, centre-back is the key position. It’s important to know what the other guy next to you is going to do and I think United probably want Harry Maguire to run that back four,” Harris said.
However, United’s move for Maguire bears similarities to Liverpool’s then record-breaking move for Virgil Van Dijk in January 2018. That isn’t to say that Maguire necessarily possesses the same quality as Van Dijk - he still has time to prove that he does - but the conversation around both transfers is similar.
The announcement of Van Dijk’s signing was greeted with bemusement at the size of the fee, but Liverpool wanted the player and went and got him. The Maguire announcement has been greeted with a similar reaction.
Winning the Champions League, and Van Dijk being in the conversation for the Ballon d’Or have justified the price tag. And if Manchester United have taken a leaf from their greatest rivals’ book, it’s not a bad move on the surface and it may signal a culture change for United.
“I like the signings. I think they fit what was necessary for the club and what remains to be seen is whether they can actually hack it and you never really know that until you see what happens on the pitch.
“So if that was the price of Harry Maguire and he turns out to be good for United then that will be money well spent,” Harris admitted.
Maguire took the mantle from Van Dijk as the ‘world’s most expensive defender’, and will have to deal with the pressure that inherently comes from a record-breaking move - and moving to Manchester United.
“It is not easy to completely shut off all the pressure. Personally, I like to put things in perspective. Quite a lot of things are more important than playing football and what we do, we are blessed,” Van Dijk said.