A RARE club start and a clean sheet will do Harry Maguire’s shattered confidence the power of good.
Yet the England defender will still fear the writing is on the wall for him at Old Trafford.
Harry Maguire produced a strong display against BournemouthCredit: Reuters
Erik Ten Hag rotated his defensive resources knowing there are bigger tests ahead – meaning Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez were given the night off.
And it’s hard to think Maguire will start United’s next couple of Prem games – the derby against City here on Saturday week or Arsenal away a week later.
Rio Ferdinand said on Saturday that the current United captain should be looking for a new club.
Three days later he was given the chance to prove the critics wrong with his first league start since the end of October.
And – on paper at least – he could not have asked for a much better game to ease himself back in.
Bournemouth failed to score in any of their three matches since the World Cup – and are starting to look over their shoulders at the relegation zone again.
Yet here Maguire was grateful to David de Gea and some wasteful finishing for the Cherries goal drought continuing.
No matter who the opponents are, Maguire seems to be a bag of nerves when he pulls on the red shirt.
He started all five games for England at the World Cup and looked more like the player who persuaded United to part with £80 million in summer 2019.
Back at Old Trafford, it is a different story.
He got his chance here as Erik Ten Hag appeared to prioritise the forthcoming cup games with Everton and Charlton as the club look to end their six year wait for a trophy.
At the weekend the manager suggested Luke Shaw is now an option at centre back after impressing there over Christmas.
The former Southampton man reverted to left back here but still managed to upstage his Three Lions team-mate by getting on the scoresheet – and having a hand in the third.
Both Maguire and Victor Lindelof were drafted in to start with Ten Hag insisting it would have happened sooner but for the illness they both had over Christmas.
He had time and space to play a couple of Hollywood passes early on with the Cherries sitting back.
A sign of his jitters came when he shanked a routine pass to Lindelof and somehow sent it out for a corner. To be fair he cleared up his own mess by nodding the resulting spot-kick clear.
After the break he missed out on headers to Phillip Billing and Solanke but on both occasions De Gea came to the rescue.
And it was the same story when Billing got ahead of Maguire to flick as pass into Jadon Anthony’s feet with the United keeper saving well.
A move away this month appears unlikely with United going for glory on four fronts – but he may have to be content with a bit-part role for a while yet.