Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier
Harry Maguire and Kieran Trippier

Harry Maguire joined Manchester United from Leicester City earlier this month for a world record fee of £80 million.

And on Sunday he made an impressive and commanding debut in central defence against Chelsea at Old Trafford.

But before even he had kicked a ball, Harry Maguire was on the receiving end of some harsh criticism from pundit Paul Merson on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday less than 24 hours before his debut for his new club.

He said(as reported): “He’s not in Virgil Van Dijk’s class, is he? At Leicester, he played on the edge of his own box and had lots of protection from the players around him.

“But at Manchester United, he will have to play on the halfway line and there will be a lot of space in behind him where he could get caught out for pace.

“He’s not the quickest and he’ll be playing against people like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mo Salah. He might find that tough one on one.

“I’ve seen good defenders have their careers ended by moves like that. They leave one team that plays a certain way for another where they don’t quite fit, and they get found out.”

Thankfully though, Merson came back to his senses pretty quickly as he publicly apologised publicly to Harry Maguire for his comments.

“I thought he was steady,” he said. “He has that command and a presence, he looks like a centre-half and he doesn’t mess about

“I thought he did very well. I thought I was very critical of him on Soccer Saturday, if I’m honest, and I tried to get hold of him today, I’ll talk to him tomorrow, he has text me back.

“What I wanted to say didn’t come across in the way it should have. I thought it was a lot of money and I did, but I sort of didn’t give him the credit he deserves with how good he is.

“When people show highlights and we are critical on Sky, I was brought up when everything was clear your lines but now it’s coming out and playing.

“I was a bit disrespectful in that way. He has played in a World Cup semi-final, he is an international and I was out of order and I’ll be the first to admit that.

“I thought he was steady. He looked like a presence. He is comfortable on the ball but he will have to defend as time goes on.

“I think, if Chelsea were more clinical and they had better players upfront, it wouldn’t have been his fault, but they would have scored goals.

“He is better than what they’ve got, a lot better. A clean sheet and I know we look back and say they hit the post and had this shot and De Gea made a great save, but he kept a clean sheet. He did well and he will get better.”

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