Paul Merson apologises for Harry Maguire criticism
Maguire produced a man-of-the-match display in United's 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening weekend of the campaign
Last Updated: 14/08/19 11:03am
Paul Merson has apologised for "disrespecting" Harry Maguire after the Sky Sports pundit questioned Man Utd's new £80m centre-back over the weekend.
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Maguire became the most expensive defender in the world after moving from Leicester City to United in August, beating the £75m that Liverpool paid to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjkaer made the addition of a new central defender his number one priority ahead of the new season after United kept just seven clean sheets in the Premier League last season.
Merson, however, was highly critical of the amount United paid for Maguire, calling it "ridiculous".
"Maguire for £80m is ridiculous at the highest level," the former Arsenal and England forward told Soccer Saturday ahead of United's opening league clash at home to Chelsea the following day.
"You have to remember he ripped it up for England in a three. And when you play in a three at the back, you do that for one reason only - the defenders are not good enough and you do not trust them. He done well at England.
"But you have to remember when he plays for Leicester, they play, they drop back and defend on the edge of their box, there is no space behind. The ball comes in the middle, he heads it out, he comes out running with the ball.
I was a bit disrespectful in that way. He has played in World Cup semi-finals, he is an international and I was out of order and I will be the first to admit that
Paul Merson on The Debate
"He kicks off now with Man Utd and you are on the halfway line and all of a sudden you are playing against Arsenal and you are on the halfway line and balls are going over the top for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and for Man City for Sergio Aguero and it is pace, pace, pace."
Maguire, though, went on to produce a man-of-the-match performance as United thrashed Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford on Super Sunday.
The 26-year-old made a key interception in the build-up to United's second goal at a time when Chelsea were pushing for an equaliser, as well as having an 86 per cent pass completion rate, while no opposition player dribbled past him.
👏 Harry Maguire is @premierleague Man of the Match on his @ManUtd debut— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 11, 2019
• 7 clearances - most in match
• 4 interceptions - most in match
• 86% passing accuracy
• Dribbled past no times
Helps Man Utd keep their 1st clean sheet in 16 games in all comps since February pic.twitter.com/v3iYFR97Oy
"He's done exactly what we signed him for," purred Solskjaer after the match. "His presence in both boxes, his composure and calmness on the ball, and he is a leader." It's early days, but United's latest signing looks worth every penny."
Following Maguire's commanding display, however, Merson has reappraised his views, claiming he was wrong in his initial assessment of the England international.
"He has a presence, he's commanding, he doesn't mess about. I thought he did very well," the Sky Sports pundit told The Debate.
"I thought I was very critical of him on Soccer Saturday if I'm being honest. I tried to get hold of him today (Monday) and I will talk to him tomorrow (Tuesday) as he texted me back.
"And I thought I was a bit critical if I'm being honest - I thought what I wanted to say did not really come across the way I thought it should have.
"I sort of did not really give him the credit he deserves of how good he is. I was brought up in the day and age where it was clear your lines - a Tony Adams or a John Terry, or someone like that.
"So I was a bit disrespectful in that way. He has played in World Cup semi-finals, he is an international and I was out of order and I will be the first to admit that.
"I thought he was steady. He's comfortable on the ball, but he will have to defend as time goes on. If Chelsea were more clinical and they had better players up front they would have scored.
"He is a lot better than what they have got. You can look back and say they hit the post and had chances and David de Gea made a great save with his feet, but they still kept a clean sheet. Whoever keeps a clean sheet every week the other team always has a chance to score. He did well and he will get better."