‘You need more than 11 players' says Harry Maguire as United seek strong finish

Harry Maguire has highlighted the importance of strength in depth (Martin Rickett/PA)
Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer

Harry Maguire says the return to fitness of Christian Eriksen and Anthony Martial is a massive boost as Manchester United attempt to end a promising season on a high.

After a wretched 2021-22 campaign that began poorly under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and unravelled under interim Ralf Rangnick, there has been an upturn under Erik ten Hag.

United are on course for a top-four finish having ended their six-year wait for a trophy by lifting the Carabao Cup in February and could yet add further silverware as they fight for FA Cup and Europa League glory.

That would mean playing a further 16 matches this season, meaning the strength in depth of the Old Trafford squad will be key.

“We’re never going to be successful as 11 players,” captain Maguire said after returning to the starting line-up in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Everton.

“This is the Premier League and we’re playing in all competitions. We want to do as much as we can in every competition, win more trophies and also compete at the highest level of the Premier League.

“To do that you need more than 11 players.”

One player who will be hard to replace is in-form forward Marcus Rashford, who is being assessed after pulling up holding his groin towards the end of Saturday’s match.

Luke Shaw, Alejandro Garnacho, Donny van de Beek and Tom Heaton are already sidelined but Casemiro has now completed his four-match domestic ban and United have two key players back from injury.

The Everton match saw Martial score his first Premier League goal of 2023 on his third appearance back from a hip injury and Eriksen return from the ankle injury sustained in January.

Anthony Martial File Photo
Anthony Martial is on the way back to fitness (PA)

“To get Christian back, Anthony back, they’re huge players for us, huge players for the squad,” Maguire said of the substitutes on MUTV.

“They can make a difference off the bench, can start games and it just brings that little bit more energy into everybody, knowing that competition for places is high.

“We’ve got a good squad to be able to cope with the demands that we’ve been put through in the games that we have to play.”

Manchester United v Reading – Emirates FA Cup – Fourth Round – Old Trafford
Christian Eriksen is also poised to return (PA)

United’s attention now turns to Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first leg against Sevilla, while relegation-threatened Everton refocus on next weekend’s home league game against Fulham.

Toffees boss Sean Dyche had no complaints with the result at Old Trafford, conceding the afternoon would have been worse but for poor finishing or some key stops by Jordan Pickford.

“We know as a team we want to be much better,” the Everton goalkeeper said. “We know we can give so much more as a unit.

“To come to Old Trafford, sometimes we need to step up to the plate a bit more but we know they’re a top side.

“Coming to Manchester United is always going to be tough. We probably needed a better mentality but we were still in the game at 1-0 and then the second goal kind of killed it really.

“That’s what I’m there to do – make saves when called upon – but as a team unit we need to be better and we know that as well.

“We’ve got eight games left; eight finals, you can call them.”