Manchester United are knocked out of Champions League 2020-21 by RB Leipzig from the group stage. They are demoted to Europa League knockout stages. Despite their promising run in Premier League, they are out of UCL. They defeated both PSG and RB Leipzig once in their group stage. But they lost to Istanbul Basaksehir, which cost them their flight to RO16.
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United required only a draw from Tuesday's trip to RB Leipzig to advance to the last 16 of the competition but was beaten 3-2 by last season's semi-finalists at the Red Bull Arena.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men could have progressed even if they had secured a draw on Tuesday but Leipzig sealed the deal early with 2 goals inside the first 13 minutes. Justin Kluivert's strike in the 69th minute made it 3-0 but Leipzig had to overcome a late comeback from Manchester United to seal a memorable win.
Bruno Fernandes worked hard and created most for United. He converted a penalty in the 80th minute gave Manchester United a ray of hope which was amplified after Paul Pogba's header two minutes later. That instant reply gave them a sense of getting back into the game. But United ran out of steam as they kept searching for an equalizer without much success.
Solskjaer went with a five-man defense – a formation last used in the 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in October – and United found themselves two goals down inside 13 minutes, both goals coming from simple transition play. Harry Maguire was at the fault of both the goals somehow. At the post-match conference Manchester United captain Harry Maguire said it’s an inability to defend, and not manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tactics, is to blame for the Red Devils crashing out of the Champions League. He insisted the players have to take full responsibility for the defeat, which condemned United to Europa League football in the second half of the season.
"We have to look at ourselves. We gave ourselves too much to do.” – these were his words after the defeat. But what happened to him? All the spotlights are on him and the defensive woes of United continue to hurt them.
Paul Scholes has criticized Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire’s post-match analysis while Rio Ferdinand was ‘baffled’ by the side’s lacklustre start to the match.
But what happened with Harry Maguire?
The most expensive defender in the history of Premier League is at the center of every horrendous defensive display of United this season.
He moved to Manchester United from Leicester City in 2019 after a striking display in both PL and World Cup 2018. It was believed to be a transfer fee of £80 million needed to bring him to United. It is a world-record amount for a defender. Despite regular complaints from Jose Mourinho about their lack of a good center back, he never received one. But Ole got himself a solid defender who was believed to be the solution, not the problem. On 17 January 2020, he was named as the new club captain by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Maguire played a significant part in Manchester United's successful 2019–20 Premier League campaign, which saw them finish in third place.
But this season he looks something else. His shaky start to Premier League cost United some of the strangest and unbelievable defeats. In their 6-1 defeat against Tottenham, we saw the worst of Maguire. He was even seen disturbing and tacking his own teammate Luke Shaw on his own half. It was quite the meme for 2020. Many believe this is the post-Greece Harry Maguire. What happened in august of 2020 in Greece affected Maguire a lot. It was after that incident his performance declined. He performed well for England on international duty but never looked the same.
What Happened in Greece?
On 21 August 2020, Maguire was arrested on the Greek island of Mykonos after an incident involving an alleged assault on a police officer. Manchester United said in a statement that Maguire was "fully co-operating with the Greek authorities”. But Maguire appeared in court on the island of Syros the following day, after spending two days in detention. On 25 August, Maguire was convicted of all charges and found guilty of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and attempted bribery. Maguire was given a jail term of 21 months and 10 days. However, it was to be a suspended sentence as it was the first offense and the three charges were classed as misdemeanors.
It was a dark time for him. In an interview, he said, “I feared for my life during arrest in Greece”. It was a traumatic experience for anyone. After that incident, the defender never looked the same. The expectations were always there for him like any other Man United player. He is the captain of Old Trafford. Such incidents do hurt the rock-solid defense you made for yourself over the years of hard work.
Without a doubt, Maguire is a world-class player. He is not some teenage one season sensation. He is in the prime years of his career. He worked his way up to be the Captain of Manchester United and the center point of England’s backline. His international team Coach Gareth Southgate extended his support for Harry in times of crisis.
Surely his form dropped but there is no changing the fact that he has the quality to shine again. In UEFA Nations League he was one of the top performers for England. It’s imminent he will get his form back. There is also no debate in the fact that Ole Gunner is no tactical mastermind. There are questions about his future at Old Trafford is also rising. With Pochettino and Allegri lined up as a possible replacement, United will be looking closely at the team performance.