EPL

Harry Maguire rates competition for places as vital to Man Utd trophy hopes

By Sports Desk January 21, 2023

Harry Maguire believes the growing competition for places at Manchester United is a recipe for success, despite seeing his own game time limited this season.

The Red Devils captain has endured a frustrating campaign, having started only seven matches, and just two in the Premier League since August.

Despite playing the full 90 minutes of United's 3-0 win over Bournemouth, the England defender appeared only as a late substitute during the recent derby win over Manchester City, while he was unused in the midweek draw with Crystal Palace.

Erik ten Hag's side headed into this weekend sitting third in the Premier League and eight points behind leaders Arsenal, who they face in a blockbuster clash at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

United then play Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup semi-finals before taking on Reading in the FA Cup fourth round, while an eagerly anticipated Europa League showdown with Barcelona is also on the horizon.

Maguire insists squad rotation is and will continue to be crucial as the club bid to be successful, and potentially end their six-year wait for major silverware, having last triumphed in the 2016-17 Europa League under Jose Mourinho.

"I think subs throughout our season have been really important," Maguire told United Daily. "They've scored some crucial goals, players have come on and had a big impact in the game. So, we know it's a squad game.

"Obviously, everyone wants to start and everyone's disappointed when they don't start the games, but that's the way it should be because we're all footballers.

"We're all competitive, we want to play football, but we've also got to be ready when we're called upon.

"I think our fixture list from now until the end of the season is relentless, not much break, not much rest in between games. So, I'm sure fresh legs will be used.

"And I think if you're going to be a successful squad, it's so important to have competition for places in each position, and I think we've got that in this team now."

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    Erik ten Hag has no complaints with Manchester United's fixture schedule and insists his squad is deep enough to cope with challenging on multiple fronts in the second half of the season.

    United beat Reading 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday to advance to the last 16 of the FA Cup, while Wednesday's 3-0 first-leg win over Nottingham Forest means they are all but assured of a place in the EFL Cup final.

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    "At clubs we have to set squads and squads are big enough to deal with it and I think players like to play.

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    Ten Hag surprised many by naming a strong starting line-up against Championship side Reading, with Harry Maguire coming into the side as the only change from the Forest match, which followed on from a 3-2 league loss at Arsenal.

    "If you see everything in the perspective of the result, after a defeat we've bounced back," Ten Hag said. "I was happy with the performance at Arsenal, but we made mistakes.

    "We have to work on those mistakes but now twice we have had good performances and two good results."

    Casemiro's second-half double and a neat finish from Fred earned United victory over Reading, who had Andy Carroll sent off but pulled one back through Amadou Salif Mbengue.

    United lost key midfielder Christian Eriksen to injury prior to the hour mark, but Ten Hag says it is too early to determine if the Denmark international is going to spend any time on the sidelines.

    "It's always difficult to say in this moment so short after the game has finished," he said.

    "But it's an ankle [problem]. We have to see what the diagnosis is, so it will be a minimum of 24 hours before we know that and then I can say more."

    United are back in action on Wednesday with the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Forest, before returning to league action at home to Crystal Palace next weekend.

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