It’s hard not to greet the growing number of headlines about Harry Maguire’s reported interest to José Mourinho’s Manchester United with amazement.
Yes, it really could be happening. Maguire is currently 11/8 to make the move to Manchester in this transfer window.
Apparently, United’s pursuit of adequate full-backs has been ended with the signing of a 19-year-old who’s made six senior appearances for Porto’s first team.
Instead, the Red Devils are now intent on spending upwards of £50m on another centre-back even though they’ve spent £65m for two others in the last two summer transfer windows under José Mourinho.
Maguire had a fine World Cup, endearing himself to a nation desperate for any semblance of World Cup success with his crashing headers and his casual pitchside chit-chat, but quite how this justifies the extreme increase in his value is not quite clear.
Not wishing to go over old ground, but England’s World Cup performance was exciting without being especially impressive. Certainly, Maguire et al bossed a feeble Panamanian side in Russia and adequately handled possession against ball-averse sides like Tunisia and Sweden, but can we really draw many conclusions from a run where England’s biggest tests came against Belgium’s reserves and Croatia, challenges that proved too difficult on three occasions?
United would never have considered a move on this scale if not for the 25-year-old’s World Cup splash. Maguire was signed by Leicester from relegated Hull last summer for just £12m.
Now his value has more than quadrupled, according to rumours of United’s valuation.
Reports suggest that Maguire’s ability to handle possession is central to United’s interest. Again, looking at the creative output from Russia, England didn’t exactly amaze with the quality of their play on the ball.
Of course, Maguire isn’t solely responsible for this, but it seems more likely that his signing would fit more easily into a side determined to win through attrition.
‘Slabhead’s’ aerial assaults on opposing defenders from set-pieces certainly worked well for England, though whether it will cut it at the top of the Premier League is another question.
Marouane Fellaini’s will-he-won’t-he contract drama offered some hope that Mourinho might move on from the shackling of creative play that’s defined his time at United, and Fred’s signing from Shakhtar may be a sign of better things to come, but with the extension of the Belgian’s tenure, Maguire’s possible recruitment prompts further doubts about how much will change in this make-or-break term for the Portuguese coach.
Rather, Fellaini’s continuing run at United, Anthony Martial’s likely departure, and rumours of Maguire’s signing provide further evidence, if it were needed, of the decay at the heart of the most successful club of the Premier League era. These moves are symbolic of the club’s directionless drift since Ferguson’s departure.
The interest in the Leicester centre-half comes a year after signing Victor Lindelof and two years after Eric Bailly joined the club – the Ivorian seems to have fallen foul of Mourinho’s increasingly unpredictable temper.
Mourinho’s been an admirer of the Foxes’ stopper for a while, but is the club really going to fork out over £50m for another centre-half? Is Mourinho’s judgement not called into question by yet another effort to fix the heart of his defence?
These repeated efforts suggest neither Mourinho nor his supposed partner in the footballing side of United’s business, Ed Woodward, have much of a vision for United beyond throwing money at the team until something – anything – works.
This Maguire chatter could turn into nothing, or he may even make the move and be a decent signing for United, but seeing it being touted ought to worry any United supporters who can look beyond the short-term and José Mourinho’s Ponzi-like approach to team building.
If he signs enough players, maybe it’ll pay a dividend before the investors – United and their supporters – have to cut their losses.
And maybe it won’t.