Former Chelsea star Craig Burley believes the form of Harry Maguire should be of ‘major concern’ to Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United made the England international the world’s most expensive centre-half when they paid Leicester £80million last summer.
The 27-year-old was rewarded for some commanding early displays with the captain’s armband and although United’s defensive record has improved since the turn of the year, Maguire’s own form has dipped markedly in recent weeks.
Maguire was singled out for criticism by Roy Keane last month for the part he played in the concession of Steven Bergwijn’s goal against Spurs, while he was embarrassed and nutmegged by former United youngster Josh King in front of the Stretford for the opening goal in Bournemouth eventual 5-2 defeat a fortnight ago.
The former Hull City defender was again partially to blame for Michael Obafaemi’s injury time strike last night, as Southampton escaped from Old Trafford with a 2-2 draw which blew the race for the top four wide open again.
Burley accepts United are far from the only team struggling defensively but insists Solskjaer must be honest in his assessment of a player, who in Maguire, is struggling to justify his transfer fee.
He told ESPN FC: ‘I think Lindelof is OK but for the money they paid for Harry Maguire, I tell you he is looking very cumbersome to me.
‘If I was Solskjaer, that centre-half pairing would be a big concern for me. We know they’re not the only team. We know City are looking for centre halves, we know Chelsea are, Arsenal are desperate for them. All these clubs are desperate for these defenders and Manchester United are another club that are in that scenario.’
Despite the loss of two valuable points last night, Solskjaer’s side remain in a strong position to secure Champions League qualification, but Burley feels a top four position would already have been cemented had United been able to benefit from possessing a world-class coach.
He added: ‘I think United are the favourites to get in it because of their remaining fixtures but if they’d have had a man in charge from the start of the season who in my opinion was up to the task properly they would probably have nailed it down already by now.
‘That’s my point, if United fans can’t take that and don’t like it then tough. Continue the fact you’ll be chasing the tail of Manchester City and Liverpool in the coming seasons.
‘Manchester United are one of the biggest commercial juggernauts in the world and have been for some while. Their standards are a lot higher than most others. I would suggest sitting in fifth in the table is not great shape for Man Utd unless standards have dropped.
‘I acknowledge some of their great young players, I don’t deny that. But the big question isn’t if these young players produce, it’s has he (Solskjaer) got the tactical nous when it comes to the nitty gritty, can he outwit two of the best managers on the planet in Klopp and Guardiola?
‘And don’t think these teams will sit on their hands. They (Liverpool) will go out and replenish that squad in the summer, Man City will definitely go again even more so now we know they are going to be playing in the Champions League.
‘We know these teams have got world-class managers, we cannot hand on heart, absolutely nobody can, apart from one or two cheerleaders, sit here and say Man Utd have got a world-class coach, If anybody does they’re stupid.’
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