Man Utd need a warrior like Steve Bruce to win ugly as horror stat shows Maguire & Co won’t stick head in where it hurts


THERE’S A reason why Steve Bruce’s nose looks like a living replica of Spaghetti Junction.

He made his name not only for putting that nozzle in harm’s way defending his box.

Bruce often put himself in harm's way defending United's penalty area

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Bruce often put himself in harm’s way defending United’s penalty areaCredit: GETTY
Maguire and Co won't stick their head in where it hurts

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Maguire and Co won’t stick their head in where it hurtsCredit: GETTY

Bruce was also a renowned danger in the opposition penalty area too.

True enough, he was an expert penalty taker.

But the majority of an amazing 51 goals in 414 appearances for Manchester United were down to plain, old-fashioned guts going for corners.

In 1990-91 he hit the net an astonishing 19 times and was Old Trafford’s joint-leading league scorer with Brian McClair as United won the Cup Winners’ Cup and Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were gearing up for future Prem domination.

A couple of years later as United made it back-to-back title wins he hit the net seven times in all competitions.

Compare his record to the current central defenders at the club.

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Harry Maguire, captain as Bruce became, has six goals in 133 games and a total of 27 in 416 throughout his career.

Victor Lindelof has three in 183 for United and just nine in 403 appearances while Raphael Varane hasn’t hit the net in 19 games since signing last summer from Real Madrid, where he got 15 in ten seasons.

Eric Bailly may be a unit but not when backing up his attackers for set pieces – the Ivorian has a mere one goal in 113 games for United and two in 186 since turning pro.

Brucey, now settling into his latest job as a boss just a few miles up the M6 from Spaghetti Junction at West Brom, used to average six a season.

Some might say that the game has moved on since the likes of him and England stalwart Terry Butcher would come off the field looking like they had featured in Spaghetti westerns.

But the blood that poured down their faces was the real thing.

United captain Maguire is under fire for some of his performances
United captain Maguire is under fire for some of his performances

And don’t suggest to Virgil van Dijk or his Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp that Route One football should remain in the dark ages.

The Dutchman credited as the best defender in the world has 15 goals in 160 games since arriving at Anfield for £75million from Southampton and 44 from 421 in total.

VVD is not too proud to try to stick his bonce on a corner and maybe smash his face in the process.

In fact it was in the Everton box that he suffered the cruciate knee ligament injury thanks to the mad challenge by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford which cost him most of last season.

Yet United go to Elland Road this Sunday without one of their players scoring from 175 successive corners – a staggering statistic which points to a complete lack of what Bruce was all about.

They had ten against Brighton in the scrambled 2-0 win over them, ten against Burnley as they completed a run of three successive 1-1 draws.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has defended his captain Maguire
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has defended his captain Maguire

They are bottom of the Prem table in terms of goals from corners.

The last time a United player profited was Maguire in a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United in January 2020.

In March last year they did beat West Ham 1-0 at Old Trafford with a goal from a corner, but that was thanks to Craig Dawson sticking the ball into his own net.

What’s more there has been only one goal from a set piece all season.

Last summer Eric Ramsey was poached by Solskjaer from his job working with Chelsea’s under-23s.

The club website proudly proclaimed that he would ‘take ownership’ of the side’s set pieces.

Yet while Liverpool, for instance, have scored ten goals from corners since, Ramsey’s work in the background would appear redundant.

Either that, or given that he arrived with a glowing reputation, nobody is listening to him and not just the central defenders.

Ferguson’s teams, while lauded for their attacking skills, still sometimes struggled to score and a header from a Bruce, Gary Pallister, Bryan Robson or a Roy Keane would often make the difference.

This United, flailing for credibility, could do with one of them instead of constantly relying on Cristiano Ronaldo to get them over the line.

And when he isn’t scoring, as he had failed to do for six games in a row until his beauty of an opener against Brighton, then they flail even more.

Winning ugly has certainly not gone out of fashion.

Within a side where the Beautiful Game has become only a fond memory it would surely help if someone was prepared to stick his head in where it hurts to scramble a winner.

The ugly truth is it never seems to happen.

There has to be a reason for that, too.

Ronaldo is United's top scorer
Ronaldo is United’s top scorer

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