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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Harry Maguire's stock continues to rise despite Leicester City defeat at Manchester United

Former Hull City player proves once again why he is rated as one of the Premier League's top central defenders, writes John McAuley. 

Harry Maguire, left, produced an assured performance for Leicester City against Manchester United on Saturday. Rui Vieira / AP Photo
Harry Maguire, left, produced an assured performance for Leicester City against Manchester United on Saturday. Rui Vieira / AP Photo

A week that included a first goal for his club and an introductory call-up with his country was denied the ending it deserved.

Harry Maguire concluded Saturday on the losing side at Old Trafford, having spent most of the match doing everything to ensure he would not. Ultimately, his Leicester City were defeated by Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. A summer signing was outdone by a couple of his rivals’ recognised contributors.

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Maguire was right to feel frustrated by the 2-0 reverse, but a defender on the rise still departed the pitch with his reputation having climbed that little more. Stationed at the heart of Leicester’s defence, Maguire resisted United and he repelled, the lead centre-back alongside club leader Wes Morgan.

Where Morgan had regressed alongside Robert Huth last season - although the pair were not alone in Leicester’s disappointing title defence - in Maguire the captain has found a partner for progress.

Against United, Maguire was commanding and convincing. According to Opta, he won five aerial duels, made four interceptions and 10 clearances. His 14 defensive actions were more than any other Premier League player on Saturday.

It came seven days after Maguire scored in the 2-0 victory against Brighton and Hove Albion. It arrived two days after Gareth Southgate named him in the England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia. It marked another step up for a defender who this past 12 months has leapt a few rungs on the ladder.

Last season, Maguire starred in a Hull City side destined for relegation. He added strength to a fragile defence while offering a threat up front, too. He scored two goals and assisted two more. He was named player of the year by both his teammates and the Hull fans.

Harry Maguire, left, up against Manchester United forward Anthony Martial. Andrew Yates / Reuters
Harry Maguire, left, up against Manchester United forward Anthony Martial. Andrew Yates / Reuters

It was no surprise that Premier League clubs sought this summer to retain his top-flight status. Tottenham Hotspur were interested, Everton and Newcastle United as well. Eventually, Maguire secured an initial £12 million (Dh56.7m) move to Leicester, for a fee that is expected to rise to £17m. Even so, it appears a bargain.

Following a trying opening day at Arsenal, Maguire has shown already that he can be trusted. At 24, there remains plenty of room for improvement. Craig Shakespeare, his manager, has labelled him a future England captain.

Harry Maguire scored his first goal for Leicester City against Brighton and Hove Albion last week. Darren Staples / Reuters
Harry Maguire scored his first goal for Leicester City against Brighton and Hove Albion last week. Darren Staples / Reuters

For their part, Leicester have recruited wisely, knowing that their outstanding run to the Premier League crown two seasons ago was built on an incredibly solid base. With Morgan and Huth in tandem – aided by the imperious N’Golo Kante in front – Leicester were as frugal at the back as they were frightening in attack.

Maguire is both a successor and a superior. Even if his efforts at Old Trafford were in vain, it remained a valiant display. Individually at least, it has been a week to remember. There promises to be many more.

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