Ronny Johnsen makes Harry Maguire prediction for Manchester United

Ronny Johnsen makes Harry Maguire prediction for Manchester United

Ronny Johnsen has backed Harry Maguire to make a significant contribution to Manchester United this season, but the former central defender has been impressed with the partnership between Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.

Maguire has spent the previous four Premier League games on the bench after being dropped in the wake of the 4-0 defeat at Brentford. He’s since started the Europa League game against Real Sociedad and played 90 minutes for England in their Nations League defeat to Italy on Friday night.

United have won four successive Premier League fixtures with Varane and Martinez at the back and they are beginning to look like a settled partnership for Erik ten Hag, leaving club captain Maguire out in the cold.

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Johnsen knows all about having to bide your time as a centre-back at Old Trafford. In his six years at the club he only once made more than 22 Premier League starts in a season, but when he was called upon he was ready to make an impact and he’s confident Maguire can do the same.

“It’s probably the first position you pick out as a manager [for a partnership]. It’s always nice to get some games under your belt in that position, to get to know the other ones really well, it’s a position where you need to know each other really well,” Johnsen told the Manchester Evening News .

“Harry has been there for many years now, he knows the club, I’m sure he’s going to contribute to the results. It’s going to be interesting to see.

“When you’re at a big club you always want to play, that’s how the players are, but you have to accept it, sometimes you need a break, sometimes you don’t need it but it’s important you do well when you first play, that’s how it is, that’s football at this level, you have to perform when you play.”

Ten Hag backed Maguire as club captain and a regular starter in pre-season, but those back-to-back defeats against Brighton and Brentford to start the season have cost the 29-year-old his place in the side. Martinez has been impressive recently after his £56million move from Ajax and Varane is beginning to find top gear at Old Trafford after joining from Real Madrid last summer.

“He’s [Ten Hag] got a few options at the back now. Since they [Varane and Martinez] came in they’ve done really well, but he can change things around, sometimes you have to do it because of the opposition. They’ve done well, they’re really good to look at and hopefully, they can keep on going,” said Johnsen.

Johnsen has been impressed with the fortitude of the United side to recover from their shaky start and he believes those wins against Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal give them a platform to build from.

The 53-year-old was back in a United shirt on Saturday, playing for the United Legends against Liverpool Legends at Anfield, a reminder of the glory years at Old Trafford. Ten Hag has a long way to go before those days are restored, but Johnsen is hopeful they can at least secure a return to the Champions League this season.

“If they can go into the Champions League next season it’s going to be great, it’s going to be tough, but then again being at United there’s always going to be pressure on the boys, they need good results, and that’s how it is. There’s always a little bit more pressure to play for United,” he said.

The Norwegian connection to Old Trafford remains strong, but Johnsen hasn’t spoken to his former club and international teammate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since he was sacked by the club 11 months ago.

“He’s on the other side of Norway to me, I think he went back and stayed quiet for a little bit. That’s how it is,” he said. “He always knows there’s a possibility when you become a manager at this level, it doesn’t matter, he’s always going to have his name on the wall there so it doesn’t matter.”

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