Erik ten Hag makes Harry Maguire demand as Man Utd defensive dilemma addressed

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Harry Maguire has enjoyed an unlikely resurgence at Manchester United this season.

Erik ten Hag is happy to see Harry Maguire rediscover his form this season but insists the Manchester United defender must keep improving. Maguire's United career has been rejuvenated this season amid a string of impressive performances when called upon. With Lisandro Martinez often injured and Raphael Varane inconsistent, the England international has arguably been Ten Hag's most dependable centre-back.

It's a far-cry from a summer in which Maguire looked to be joining West Ham, following the acceptance of a £30million bid. Despite initially deeming him surplus to requirements, Ten Hag is happy to call on the 30-year-old but expects him to keep pushing to improve and keep his place in the team.

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“He fought himself back, he fought himself into a higher level,” Ten Hag told Sky Sports of Maguire. “I really admire the way he's done this. He's doing a great job. He is a very good footballer, he’s really important at this moment to our high levels so also for him I expect and hope he keeps going, keeps challenging and keeps bringing himself to a higher level to bring even more to the team.”

Maguire's uptick in form has been crucial for United this season, particularly given his ability to play on the left of the centre-back pairing with Martinez sidelined for long periods. The former Leicester City man is right-footed but more comfortable than most on his unnatural side, allowing him to play alongside Varane.

Ten Hag has made no secret of his desire to have defenders on their natural side but was forced to start Maguire on the left side again at Aston Villa, with Luke Shaw - who can move into a central role - the only fit left-back. It has highlighted the need for natural cover in the summer but Ten Hag insists the dilemma is easier to solve with Maguire and Shaw both available.

“In that moment [the festive period when Shaw and Martinez were both absent] it wasn't ideal because we didn't have a left-footer like Luke Shaw as a left full-back, “ the Reds boss added. “It's easier when there is a left full-back. In that moment we often had two right footers at left centre-back and left full-back so it was very difficult to play in the way we wanted to. 

“I think also Harry adjusted his game, and Rapha Varane adjusted his game. We invested a lot on the training pitch, we invested a lot in them and now they are playing at higher levels.”

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