Liverpool have clearly proven a £130m transfer point as Man United’s ridiculous claims come to light
Liverpool fans can relate to Manchester United’s current plight. After all, not so long ago the shoe was on the other foot. We can all optimistically remember trying to get players into combined XIs, knowing deep down that teams realistically operated on entirely different levels. Yet never has a claim been so bold as the £130million transfer argument which has persisted alarmingly until recently – a situation that can surely finally be put to bed.
This sum represents the combined transfer fee for Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Let that sink in for a moment. Liverpool may have had stinkers in their squad over the years, but very few can be considered equivalent acts of sheer financial recklessness. Andy Carroll, at the time a club record signing for £35m, is probably the only one to enter the discussion.
Even then, Liverpool fans didn’t have the guts to try to compare Carroll to Wayne Rooney. A big transfer fee doesn’t automatically imbue a player with world-class qualities, a reality that seems to have been slow to sink in at Old Trafford. Not too long ago, Wan-Bissaka was embroiled in debates with Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Maguire was put on a pedestal with Virgil van Dijk.
These debates have become strangely quiet lately. After Manchester United were humiliated in the derby at the weekend, it could be some time before they resurface. Wan-Bissaka had a torrid time, targeted by an admittedly deadly trio of Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva. Maguire looked out of his depth, summed up by a scything challenge on Kevin De Bruyne – never such a perfectly embodied ‘we’re outclassed and we have no answers’ tackle.
In fairness, it didn’t take a 4-1 defeat at the Etihad to silence any comparisons with Liverpool – the 5-0 mayhem of Old Trafford at the hands of Jürgen Klopp’s side should have ended them a long time ago. The harsh reality is that Manchester United don’t seem to be able to compete for the Premier League title for at least the next three years.
Even then, this calendar will require a radical overhaul. It’s a damning condemnation of the £130million transfer business that such a rebuild couldn’t really be centered around Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. Both have their strengths, but neither is particularly compatible with the modern elite football team.
Wan-Bissaka’s greatly exaggerated defensive attributes are fine, but Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool is proof that a right-back in a top team needs to do so much more. The Manchester United man’s expected combined goals and assists for 90 over the past year puts him in the 17th percentile only for full-backs in Europe’s top five leagues. Alexander-Arnold is in the 99th percentile. Reece James is in the 96th percentile.
Surprisingly, Maguire boasts a 90 higher goals and assists average than Wan-Bissaka, but that’s no badge of honor for the £80million centre-back. At half the price, he probably would have been a decent transfer company: he shares some traits with Van Dijk, notably dominance in the air (although the Dutchman wins even more battles). Yet, much like his straight counterpart, Maguire is far too one-dimensional to elevate Manchester United to the level of Liverpool.
Van Dijk is averaging 73.52 passes attempted per 90. Maguire is averaging 54.43, at a worse success rate. In fact, the Liverpool man makes as many long passes per game as the Manchester United captain attempts. For a transfer outlay of £80million, that sort of assured ball game feature is surely to be expected in the modern game.
The statistics don’t give the full picture either. While Van Dijk oozes composure, Maguire brings none of the same assurance to a defence. Again, the unfortunate tackle on De Bruyne comes to mind. Likewise, it’s hard to measure attributes like athleticism, where Liverpool clearly got the much better deal. It’s impossible to imagine the Manchester United man trying to function in a high line like the one Klopp (and most teams trying to compete at the top) employs.
Admittedly, these are two very high benchmarks. In Alexander-Arnold and Van Dijk, Liverpool have arguably the two best players in the world in their positions. But it was the Manchester United supporters who started these debates, and it is to this level that the club surely aspires. It’s safe to say that they’ll need to spend the next £130million in the transfer market more wisely to even have a chance of closing the gap.