Maguire no magical remedy for United's shortcomings

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Leicester City's Harry Maguire (black) in action at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium, Cheltenham, Britain, on July 20, 2019.

Last Sunday's Community Shield clash between Manchester City and Liverpool reaffirmed many an educated hunch that last season's title duelists will again be biting at each other's heels at the summit of the English Premier League table this term.

The season curtain-raiser is rarely a reliable barometer of battles to come, but both sides put on such a superb show at Wembley that, barring some sensational business before Thursday's transfer deadline, it's safe to expect Pep Guardiola's City slickers will retain their crown, with Jurgen Klopp's relentless Reds not far behind.

Of the chasing pack, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur look to have the most convincing claims to third spot.

Much is being made of the arrival at United of Harry Maguire, and rightly so.

Maguire became something of a cult hero during England's World Cup campaign last summer, with his gladiatorial presence, commanding aerial ability and penchant for a goal or two reminiscent of throwback centerbacks like Tony Adams.

Maguire's distribution is not too shabby either, although people should take Guardiola's claim that he can turn United into a title contender with a large pinch of salt.

In the All or Nothing documentary of City's 2107-18 league-winning campaign, Guardiola is shown telling Kevin De Bruyne to target the then Leicester man, instructing: "Find that situation because the guy is not fast ... you will find space here."

At 80 million pounds ($97 million), Maguire has inherited Virgil van Dijk's mantel as the world's most expensive defender. But regardless of price, Liverpool still possesses the world's best defender in this year's Ballon d'Or favorite van Dijk.

The record fee looks all the more exorbitant considering Juventus paid Ajax 68 million pounds for Matthijs de Ligt, who was top of United's shopping list at the start of the summer. At 19, de Ligt is far from the finished article but already the Dutchman looks a more cultured addition than the 26-yearold Maguire.

In midfield, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains lumbered with another overpriced acquisition - Paul Pogba, who's long-mooted move to Real Madrid never materialized.

Of course, it's well within Pogba's ability to start the season with a bang, kissing the badge in a defiant riposte to his critics after bulging the net with a 30-yard screamer. The France international, though, will never be the dominating figure in the middle that United needs week in, week out - one in the mold of Alex Ferguson's long-time enforcer-in-chief Roy Keane.

In his capacity as a Sky Sports pundit, Keane summed up the suspicions about Pogba's flaky attitude after the Frenchman had spoken of team spirit ahead of April's Manchester derby. "I wouldn't believe a word he says, there's no meaning to it," said the Irishman. "If you're going to be a good teammate you have to run back and defend.

"They said it was heated against Everton - I heard they threw their hair gel at each other.

"He's a really talented player but you need more than talent. The really top players make their team and their teammates better. He doesn't do that. He plays for himself."

That's why it's music to the ears of United fans to hear the Old Trafford hierarchy is trying to secure a late move for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen. At the time of writing, a fee of 50 million pounds was being reported - an absolute bargain for the one world's finest playmakers.

Whether or not Juventus' Paulo Dybala and/or Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho arrive to offset Eriksen's loss, the Dane's departure would be a major blow to Tottenham's chances of securing a fifth straight top-four finish. It would also discredit the argument that Spurs are gradually leaving behind their unwanted tag as perennial also-rans.

Meanwhile, Chelsea faces an uphill battle to better or match last season's third-place finish.

New Blues boss Frank Lampard is hamstrung by a transfer ban and the loss of Eden Hazard to Madrid. However, given his hero status at Stamford Bridge, Lampard should be immune from an early-season ax if his side doesn't hit the ground running.

Despite acquiring highly touted young winger Nicolas Pepe from Lille for 72 million pounds, Arsenal still lacks quality in too many positions. Indeed, the Gunners' preference of Pepe over his Cote d'Ivoire teammate Wilfried Zaha could prove to be a miscue, given the electrifying Crystal Palace forward's proven ability in the Premier League and his superior physicality.

As for dark horses this season, Everton's astute summer business, which included the signing of young Italy international Moise Kean, could see the blue half of Merseyside crash the top six.

Expect newly promoted Aston Villa to defy the bookmakers, too.

Spearheaded by pint-sized midfield maestro John McGinn (definitely the only Scot ever to be compared to Andres Iniesta) and hometown hero Jack Grealish, the vociferously supported Birmingham club looks well equipped to spring plenty of surprises.

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