Xenia Sports – London
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire believes criticism which is often so quickly levelled at the club is rooted in jealousy.
Some of the pressure which was building on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after two defeats in four days – including the Champions League embarrassment against Istanbul Basaksehir – was lifted with a 3-1 win at Everton.
Victory avoided the ignominy of United’s worst start to a league season since 1989-90 and gave their manager some breathing space after coming under increasing scrutiny but three wins in seven league matches still leaves the club in the bottom half of the table.
Maguire admits it is sometimes difficult to ignore the criticism but felt the performance at Goodison Park gave them something to build on after the international break.
“At this club one thing I’ve noticed in my time here – I’ve been here a year and a half – is we are the most talked-about club in the world,” he said.
“Why? Because we are the biggest club in the world. People don’t want us to do well. Why? Probably because of the success we’ve had in the past.
“We have to live up to that, we have to react to it and don’t let the negatives get into our bubble inside the training ground. Sometimes it is difficult for the lads.”
Speaking after the match in a video posted on Manchester United’s Twitter feed the England international added: “We reacted well to two poor results. We felt we were on the right track after Leipzig (a 5-0 win) and we let ourselves down against Arsenal (last Sunday).
“It wasn’t good enough as a performance. In the week again we gave them a soft goal and found it too hard to create chances to come back.
“We knew this was an important game to get three points. We reacted well but it is only a start.”
Maguire is one of the players who has found himself on the end of criticism having so far failed to live up to his status as the world’s most expensive defender following his £85million move from Leicester in the summer of 2019.
However, he was praised by Solskjaer for his performance in the win at Everton, which was achieved thanks to two goals from Bruno Fernandes who, in contrast, has had no problems in excelling since his January arrival from Sporting Lisbon.
“I thought Harry’s performance was top against – for me – one of the best in the world at aerial play, (Dominic) Calvert-Lewin, with his timing in the air, his jump, his spring and his athleticism,” said the United boss.
“And I thought we as a backline defended really well against him. Very pleased with Harry and the rest of them back there.”
Solskjaer may have been keen to praise the defence, there was absolutely no doubt Fernandes is the man on whom United are pinning their hopes of success.
The Portugal not only scored two, one a powerful header to equaliser Bernard’s opener and the other a cross which went in off the post after just drifting over Marcus Rashford, but also unselfishly teed up substitute Edinson Cavani’s first goal for the club in a stoppage-time breakaway when he could have gone for his hat-trick.
United looked better with Scott McTominay and Fred as their defensive midfield pair – Paul Pogba was restricted to a late eight-minute cameo – but further forward striker Anthony Martial was ineffective and is the only striker (to have played 90-minutes-plus) in the Premier League this season to have failed to produce both a shot on target and create a single chance this season.
“Scott and Fred have done brilliantly together, they are a great partnership,” said Solskjaer,
“You could see they had fresh legs. They had that energy in the engine room.
“They’re always key for us, so our creative players can go on and create chances, show their magic.
“They’re so disciplined and we’re very pleased with the two of them.”
The only downside to the performance was injuries, which the manager attributed to the “absolute joke” of scheduling their 12.30pm kick-off after Wednesday’s Champions League game, to Luke Shaw (hamstring), Rashford (shoulder) and Victor Lindelof (back).