Maguire 'quite positive' about Europa League final chances, claims Solskjaer

By Sports Desk May 16, 2021

Harry Maguire is feeling optimistic about his chances of being fit for the Europa League final, according to Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Maguire suffered ankle ligament damage in an awkward collision with Anwar El Ghazi during the 3-1 win over Aston Villa on May 9 and subsequently had to be withdrawn.

It was an unusual situation for United and Maguire to find themselves in, as the centre-back had played in every minute of 71 consecutive league games for the Red Devils – and in his final five for Leicester City before moving two years ago – until that injury.

In fact, Maguire has played for 9,615 minutes in all competitions since the start of 2019-20. Prior to the defeat to Liverpool on Thursday, that was almost 1,000 more than any other player across the top five leagues.

That loss to the Reds came just two days after losing to Leicester, meaning United have been beaten in both games without their captain and Solskjaer was quick to accept that he will surely not play again in the Premier League this term.

Given United are already guaranteed to finish in the top four, their focus is now on facing Villarreal in the Europa League final on May 26, with Solskjaer hoping to end his wait for silverware at the club.

The manager offered an update on Sunday, insisting United will take no chances with Maguire's fitness.

"He's making progress," Solskjaer told reporters. "When I spoke to him this morning he was quite positive but, naturally, the day after it happened we were all down.

"We saw early on, or we decided that we have to focus, we have to be positive, and think that you're going make it until you have to say 'no'. I've always been an optimist, so we're positive.

"But we've consciously taken the route of not testing him out too early, too quickly, because we don't want to aggravate something. He wants this so much, so he doesn't want to take any risks, either.

"Hopefully we can have good news early, but I'll give Harry as long as it takes, because of course he has shown his importance.

"Hopefully he'll speed up the recovery and be ready for the final, but I'll give him as long as he needs, until he says 'yes' or 'no'."

Although Solskjaer needs no convincing of Maguire's influence, fans and pundits have not always been so kind about him considering United made him the world's most expensive defender when they bought him in 2019.

Maguire has missed 12 games for United in all competitions, most of them in the domestic cups, so comparing them directly with and without their captain is a pretty redundant exercise.

Examining his individual numbers offers a broader picture of his influence, though. He has helped United to 42 clean sheets in all competitions since joining, the most of any defender across Europe's top five leagues prior to the Liverpool loss. He was also directly responsible for by far the most clearances (391), headed clearances (244), duels won (645) and aerials won (432) over that same period.

Unquestionably a good stopper, he has also proved suitably adept with the ball. Maguire has made 6,152 successful passes in his United career, again the most of any defender in those top European leagues over the aforementioned period. Of those passes, 2,142 have been completed in the opponent's half, which is the best figure for any nominal centre-back.

Maguire can also claim to have had as much of an influence on United's patterns of play as any Solskjaer signing – barring Bruno Fernandes, of course.

In the Premier League this season, Maguire has started 24 open-play sequences that have ended in a shot, which again was the highest number among the division's centre-backs until his injury.

Maguire has not only made United's defence more resolute; he has directly impacted their use of the ball. His absence has already been keenly felt, but at least the United captain might start to be acknowledged as one of the most influential players in England – not that it was ever in doubt for Solskjaer.

"We've known it [his importance] all along, of course. But maybe some people open their eyes when he's not playing! I certainly felt I became a very, very good player when I was injured. People suddenly realised what I could do as a sub, or as a player," Solskjaer continued.

"Harry's been our leader, he's a captain. Ever since he's come in, he's been more or less ever-present, so of course he's a big miss at the moment."

Related items

  • T20 World Cup: Scotland stun Bangladesh & record-breaker Shakib T20 World Cup: Scotland stun Bangladesh & record-breaker Shakib

    Chris Greaves produced an instrumental performance to help Scotland deal an early dent to Bangladesh's hopes of progressing to the T20 World Cup Super 12 with a shock win.

    A Scotland victory appeared extremely unlikely when they were reduced to 53-6 having been put into bat in Muscat.

    However, Greaves' 28-ball 45 helped Scotland rebuild their innings, as they reached 140-9, in an innings that saw Shakib Al Hasan become the leading wicket-taker in T20 internationals, with two dismissals taking him to 108.

    And Greaves was similarly key with ball in hand, his 2-19 comprising the key wickets of Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim.

    Greaves broke up that duo's 47-run third-wicket partnership by removing Shakib for 20 and then benefited as Mushfiqur misjudged a scoop on 38 and lost his leg stump.

    Brad Wheal (3-24) took a starring role from there, dismissing Nural Hasan (2) and Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah (23) in the space of four 19th-over deliveries.

    Bangladesh were left needing 24 off the last over and that proved too steep a challenge as Scotland prevailed by six runs.

    The day's earlier Group B game saw Oman cruise to a 10-wicket win over Papua New Guinea thanks in part to Jatinder Singh's 73.

  • Newcastle United 2-3 Tottenham: Kane off the mark as Spurs spoil the party at St James' Park Newcastle United 2-3 Tottenham: Kane off the mark as Spurs spoil the party at St James' Park

    Newcastle United's new era started with a familiar feeling of disappointment as Tottenham ran out 3-2 winners at St James' Park, with Sunday's match marred by a medical emergency in the stands.

    With the pre-match build up dominated by Newcastle's off-field changes, the club's new PIF owners were served up a stark reminder of the issues on the pitch as Steve Bruce's 1000th game as a manager ended in defeat.

    Callum Wilson's second-minute header buoyed an already rampant home crowd, but Tottenham hit back through Tanguy Ndombele before Harry Kane scored his first Premier League goal of the season.

    A fan was taken to hospital after an incident late in the first half, which led to a defibrillator being called for and the suspension of play. When it restarted, Kane turned provider for Son Heung-min.

    Jonjo Shelvey's red card seemed to erase any Newcastle hopes, only for Eric Dier's late own goal to worry Spurs, but it was ultimately not enough to inspire a comeback.

    Newcastle's pre-match elation swiftly carried onto the pitch. Only one minute and 47 seconds had passed when Wilson got ahead of his marker to head in Javier Manquillo's cross.

    Yet a blistering following 10 minutes failed to produce another Newcastle goal and, after Lucas Moura fired a warning shot, Spurs drew level through Ndombele's superb, curling strike into the right-hand side of the goal.

    Spurs' turnaround was complete five minutes later as Kane darted onto Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's lofted pass and finished deftly over Darlow. The goal was initially disallowed for offside, but VAR spotted Manquillo's failure to step up in time.

    Lucas rattled the woodwork as Spurs searched for a third, though play was then suspended due to a medical emergency in the crowd.

    Spurs picked up where they left off following a long delay – Kane squaring for Son to make it 3-1.

    Devoid of ideas going forward, Newcastle's day turned from bad to worse in the 83rd minute.

    Shelvey, brought on as a 60th-minute substitute, brought down Sergio Reguilon, duly receiving his second yellow card.

    Newcastle were handed hope by Dier bundling into his own net, though Spurs held firm to condemn their hosts to another damaging defeat.


    What does it mean? Champions League? It’s the Championship that Newcastle need to worry about

    There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover, but many fans have been left dreaming of what their club can achieve with such wealth at their disposal.

    However, talk of mega-money deals for global superstars must now make way for the bleak reality Newcastle face. They sit 19th, without a win to their name and only a point above Norwich City. It may be early in the campaign, but the focus come January has to be retaining the club's Premier League status. 

    Harry gets off the mark at his happy hunting ground

    Kane's misfortunes have become a major talking point in recent weeks, with last season's golden boot winner far from his best since his failed move to Manchester City.

    But he finally opened his league account for the campaign on Sunday, before then combining with his partner in crime Son. Six of Kane's seven top-flight goals for Spurs against Newcastle have come at St James' Park. He has only scored more away goals against Leicester City and Everton.

    Time up for Bruce?

    Bruce hit out at the media in his pre-match news conference, after numerous stories of his impending dismissal proved to be untrue. Yet on his milestone game as a manager, Bruce's deficiencies were there for all to see. Newcastle started brilliantly, but in the final 10 minutes, a chorus of "sacked in the morning" echoed around the stadium. It was not exactly clear which sets of supporters were responsible.

    His record stands at W376, D254, L370, while Bruce has won just four of his 27 encounters with Spurs in all competitions, and the speculation over his future seems set to continue as Newcastle's new owners assess the state of play.

    What's next?

    Newcastle face another London team in the form of an away game at Crystal Palace next Saturday, while Spurs travel to the Netherlands to play Vitesse in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

  • Nagelsmann feels Bayern deserved even more goals in thumping Leverkusen win Nagelsmann feels Bayern deserved even more goals in thumping Leverkusen win

    Julian Nagelsmann was pleased with Bayern Munich's display in their 5-1 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen but felt his side should have added even more goals to their tally.

    The reigning champions responded to their first defeat of Nagelsmann's tenure two weeks ago against Eintracht Frankfurt with a superb attacking display at BayArena on Sunday.

    Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry each scored a first-half double and Thomas Muller was also on target in between those braces, all in the space of 37 minutes.

    It marked the first time Bayern have scored five goals away from home in the first half of a Bundesliga match as they reclaimed top spot from Borussia Dortmund.

    Bayern also hit the post through Leroy Sane, whose eight shots was the most of any player in a game this campaign in the German top flight.

    And with Patrik Schick getting a consolation for Leverkusen in the second half, Nagelsmann does not believe the scoreline was a true reflection come full-time.

    "We had an incredible number of closing situations and an outstanding structure," he told DAZN. 

    "It sounds strange at 5-0, but we also had a chance of scoring sixth, seventh and eighth goals in the first half. We could have scored more.

    "The second half was more calm and that's completely normal from both teams' point of view. 

    "A lot of things we didn't do well against Frankfurt worked out today. In the end we are very happy to win the game."

    Only twice before in Bundesliga history has an away side scored five goals in a quicker time from kick-off – Dortmund against Schalke (23 minutes) and Karlsruhe versus Frankfurt (30 minutes), both in 1964.

    There have been 10 occasions when teams have scored five or more goals in the first half of a Bundesliga game this century, with Bayern responsible for six of those 45-minute thrashings, including when they put five past Dortmund before the break in March 2018 on the way to a 6-0 win.

    Leverkusen are no strangers to one-sided first halves, meanwhile, as they are the only team to have scored six goals in the opening 45 minutes of a match in the division since the turn of the millennium, doing so in their 6-1 win over Frankfurt in 2018-19.

    "It was a terrible beginning," Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky added. "We have to ask ourselves whether we gave it our all. There was something missing from everyone today."

    Lewandowski's two goals came from three shots as the Poland international brought an end to his mini drought.

    His run of scoring in 15 successive league games was ended prior to the international break when failing to net against Greuther Furth and then Frankfurt, before also going scoreless in Poland's double-header of October fixtures.

    The 33-year-old has now scored two or more goals in 73 different Bundesliga games – a tally bettered only by late Bayern great Gerd Muller (87) – and was happy to joke about his short-lived scoreless run after getting back on the scoresheet.

    "Four games without a goal... which four games? Do you mean training? I scored in the Champions League game before the Frankfurt match," Lewandowski pointed out.

    "Personally, I'm happy when people ask when I'll score my next goal. That shows what expectations they have of me.

    "Sometimes there are phases when the ball doesn't fall to you, you have to be patient. Today it worked out twice.

    "We scored five goals in 45 minutes. At the break it was clear we would take all three points with us to Munich. We can be satisfied with the performance."

    The 29 goals scored by Bayern in their opening eight Bundesliga matches equals their previous highest tally at this stage in a campaign from the 1976-77 season.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.