Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire has his sights set on a top-four place

United secured their first back-to-back league wins since March.

Harry Maguire has his sights set on a top-four spot (Mike Egerton/PA)
Harry Maguire has his sights set on a top-four spot (Mike Egerton/PA)

By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer

Harry Maguire has the top four in his crosshairs after Manchester United’s thrilling derby triumph at Manchester City.

A week that started with scrutiny and mounting pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the wake of an alarming home draw with promoted Aston Villa ended with a second memorable victory in a matter of days.

Fresh from deservedly seeing off Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham 2-1 on Wednesday evening, United won by the same scoreline across town at the Etihad Stadium thanks to a roaring start and impressive game plan.

Few connected to City could have complained had Solskjaer’s side added to goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in a fine first half that laid the foundation for a victory that secured more than just bragging rights.

The 2-1 win in the 179th Manchester derby moved United up to fifth and within five points of the Champions League spots after fourth-placed Chelsea fell to a surprise loss at embattled Everton.

“I think you need to look after your own results, don’t look elsewhere, keep winning games,” Maguire, the world’s most expensive defender, said.

“We’ve won back-to-back games against Spurs and City. We’ve got another big game next week now.

“The top four is in sight but we just keep looking after our own results, keep trying to get the three points and keep improving.”

It’s a big three points, it's a special win, one for the fans, I’m really happy for them Harry Maguire

United return to action on Thursday as they close their Europa League group campaign at home to AZ Alkmaar, when Solskjaer will want to keep his in-form attackers fresh ahead of next weekend’s league clash with Everton.

The Reds had been hampered by their lack of cutting edge during the early months of the season, but the front three of Rashford, Martial and fleet-footed Daniel James showed they can scare any side on Saturday.

“Over the last month or so, I feel like as a defender I look at the forwards and think they’re going to score goals,” Maguire told MUTV.

“At the start of the season we didn’t really score more than one goal in a game but now I think it’s a few games on the spin where we’re back to scoring goals.

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Harry Maguire has urged United to keep plugging away towards the top-four places (Martin Rickett/PA)

“They’re a big threat, they’re top players, great talent and I think it’s all coming together now.

“But, no, we’re not getting carried away.

“It’s a big three points, it’s a special win, one for the fans, I’m really happy for them.

“We just keep moving up that table and keep chipping away.”

United are unbeaten in five Premier League matches and secured their first back-to-back league wins since things spectacularly unravelled in March.

There is a growing confidence within Solskjaer’s squad and Maguire is targeting more improvements after captaining the side to victory in the blue half of Manchester.

“Proud,” the England international said. “Really proud to the lead the boys out at the Etihad and to get the three points. It was an important game for us.

“We feel like this year we haven’t got results in some games where we feel we deserved the three points.

“I think the last two games, I don’t think no-one can question that we’ve deserved both victories.

“Great start from the lads. The front four in the first half was frightening and when they’re on their game like that, they can cause any defence problems.

I think we held out really well. I don’t think they created too much in the second half Harry Maguire

“The disappointing thing probably at half-time was that it was only 2-0!

“We knew they were going to come strong, they were going to throw everything at us.

“I think we held out really well. I don’t think they created too much in the second half.

“We knew we were going to have a lot of bouncing passes and David made a good a save late on and to concede from a set play is really disappointing. Something that we’ve got to tighten up on.

“Like I said, to come to the Etihad and them not to score from open play but to concede from a set play as a defender, and I am sure for David as well, it’s disappointing.

“The victory is for the fans. They deserve it this season.”

Solskjaer was proud of United’s performance at the Etihad Stadium, where they displayed the “quick, attacking football” he always knew his side were capable of in the right shape.

The Norwegian also praised their “great character and attitude” on an afternoon when missiles were aimed at Fred, who produced his best performance in a red shirt.

The Brazil midfielder was also subjected to alleged racist abuse along with Jesse Lingard, who again showed he is getting back to his best at the end of a tough year.

“He’s Man United through and through,” Solskjaer said of Lingard. “He’s a red, he’s got a great attitude and a great workrate.

“Every one of us have things to deal with on and off the pitch and what he has had to deal with, that will be between us. It’s great to see him back.”

Put to Solskjaer that fans do not see off-field issues, he said: “Exactly. That’s the privilege some people think they have.

“You can criticise anyone about anything but, for me as a manager, I have to look after these boys in the good and the bad times.

“It’s great to work with him. I had him in the reserves, I gave him his debut in the reserves against Burnley. It’s good to see him back to his old self.”

PA

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