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Erik ten Hag sends warning to Manchester United captain Harry Maguire

Erik ten Hag sends warning to Manchester United captain Harry Maguire

Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag has said that Harry Maguire is not guaranteed a spot in the first XI this season despite his presence as club captain.

The England international started the team’s first two matches of the 2022-23 Premier League campaign against Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford, but he was dropped to the bench for the clash with Liverpool.

Raphael Varane starred alongside Lisandro Martinez in the middle of the defence against the Reds, and the duo are again set to feature in Saturday’s clash with Southampton.

Ten Hag sent a warning to Maguire over playing time while paying tribute to “immense” Varane, who did not start the campaign in the team due to some fitness problems over the summer.

“That doesn’t mean when you are captain that you are established to play always, especially not when you also have Varane in your squad,” Ten Hag told reporters.

Harry Maguire in action for Manchester United on August 13, 2022© Reuters

“First, we have options and as you already said, Varane, his stature is immense. In pre-season, we had to build his physicality, so it was a bit of a slower start, and he was fit in the first games but in the first period of the pre-season, he wasn’t always, so we’re happy we built him in that way.

“You see that when the team needed him, he was really there and his profile, his stature, what he won in the past shows he can really contribute to this team. For the team, there is competition, and you need it, we have to cover so many games and we can do that in several constructions, see from game to game what we need.

“That can be a construction from Liverpool, but also in the second half at Brentford, we played with Varane and Maguire in the centre, so there are many options.

“I forget now about injuries, Victor Lindelof did really well in pre-season so I am happy he will be back on Sunday in the squad, so we will have another option. Internally, we have competition and that’s good and I think top teams need that.”

Maguire, Varane, Martinez and Lindelof are regarded as Ten Hag’s four first-team centre-backs, with Eric Bailly allowed to join Marseille on loan, while Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones are out of favour.

Manchester United's Harry Maguire during training on July 11, 2022© Reuters

Bruno Fernandes sported the captain’s armband against Liverpool on Monday evening, and the Portugal international was a key contributor to his side’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

However, Ten Hag, speaking during Friday’s press conference, was not prepared to confirm whether the attacker would take on the role on a long-term basis if Maguire struggles to get back in the side.

“I am not looking so far – we are only one game [like this]. We have a leader group and Harry is one of them, Bruno is one of them. Bruno did quite well as captain. He led by example and he brings so much energy to the team in and out of possession,” the Dutchman added.

Man United will be missing Anthony Martial against Southampton due to an Achilles issue, which could open the door for Cristiano Ronaldo to start, although Anthony Elanga, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were selected as the front three against Liverpool.

Tyrell Malacia is also expected to keep hold of the left-back position over Luke Shaw, while Casemiro is in line to make his debut for the Red Devils, having completed a move from Real Madrid.

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