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'I was out of order' - Merson reaches out to Harry Maguire after Soccer Saturday criticism

‘I tried to get hold of him today and I’ll talk to him tomorrow — he text me back.’

PAUL MERSON SAYS he has reached out to Harry Maguire to discuss what he now believes to be his over-the-top criticism of the Manchester United defender on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday.

The Sky pundit revealed on The Debate on Monday night that he had been in contact with Maguire via text, and was due to speak with him over the phone today (Tuesday).

The day before Manchester United’s 4-0 opening-weekend victory over Chelsea, Merson criticised United’s recruitment of the burly centre-half and suggested that he had thrived for both former club Leicester and England’s national team due to the defensive systems deployed by their respective managers.

He questioned as to whether the 26-year-old could replicate such form at Old Trafford where Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s defensive line would generally be positioned higher up the pitch and therefore leave space in behind it, in which case Maguire might be left exposed.

“Maguire for £80m is ridiculous at the highest level,” Merson said.

“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.

“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.”

A day later, Maguire produced a man-of-the-match performance as United hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Frank Lampard’s first game in charge of his former club.

The six-foot-three-and-a-bit defender was crucial to United’s second goal and had an 86% pass completion rate. No Chelsea player managed to dribble past him across the entirety of the game.

And Merson subsequently rowed back on his criticism, claiming he was “out of order” for the “disrespectful” manner in which he questioned Maguire’s defensive capabilities.

“He’s got that commanding…he’s got a presence,” he said on The Debate. “He looks like a centre-half, he doesn’t mess about. I thought he did very well.

“I thought I was very critical on Saturday if I’m being honest, [critical] of him on Soccer Saturday.

I tried to get hold of him today and I’ll talk to him tomorrow — he text me back. I thought I was a bit critical of him if I’m being honest — what I wanted to say didn’t really come across the way I thought it should have.

“I thought it (the £80m fee) was a lot of money — which I did — but I didn’t give him the credit he deserves for how good he is.

When people show highlights — and we’re critical on Sky, we show highlights — and everything we show is [a defender] ‘coming out playing’; when I was brought up it was ‘clear your lines’ — you know, a Tony Adams, a John Terry, or someone like that. But I was a bit disrespectful in that way. He (Maguire) has played in World Cup semi-finals, he’s an international, and I was out of order and I’d be the first to admit that.

“I thought he was steady,” Merson added. “He is a presence. He’s comfortable on the ball, but he will have to defend as time goes on. And I think if Chelsea were more clinical and they had better players playing up front, it wouldn’t have been his fault but they would have scored goals.

“But for me, he’s better than what they (United) have got. He did well and he will get better.”

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