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Harry Maguire Says Manchester United Need Consistency for Top-4 Finish

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 27, 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Harry Maguire of Manchester United applauds fans after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on December 26, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire has called on the club to establish some consistency and "get back to clean sheets" if they are to finish among the top four in the Premier League.

The Red Devils got back to winning ways on Boxing Day, when they came from a goal down to defeat Newcastle United 4-1 at Old Trafford.

United sit seventh in the table and have yet to win more than three games in a row this season. Maguire spoke to reporters after Thursday's game and said stringing together victories is critical to their top-four hopes:

"That's the key. You've got to put performances together, put wins together.

"It's really important that you go on runs in this league. We haven't really found that consistency to put three, four, five wins together. It's something that we need to work on.

"We're a young group, we're learning, [and] there are positives to take from today but now we're focused on Saturday."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men responded well after losing 2-0 on Sunday's visit to Watford, and his team are now four points behind Chelsea in fourth.

Anthony Martial scored twice against Newcastle, while Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood also joined in the scoring:

Matty Longstaff scored on his Premier League debut for Newcastle to condemn Solskjaer's side to a 1-0 defeat in October, and the 19-year-old again opened the scoring when the teams collided at Old Trafford. Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News criticised United's defence in the buildup to that goal, during which Maguire was held off by Joelinton before he assisted Longstaff to break through:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Pogba might be asked to start warming up again. Ease with which Newcastle got through practically United's entire defence twice there is a joke. But the manager made two changes, which was also a joke. Newcastle merit their lead. #mufc

The England centre-back was exploited, although Statman Dave highlighted how well he recovered to post an impressive display as far as the numbers are concerned:

Statman Dave @StatmanDave

Harry Maguire’s game by numbers vs. Newcastle United: 91% pass accuracy 8 ball recoveries 6/8 long balls 4/4 tackles won 3/4 aerials won 0 fouls Impressive. 👏👏👏 https://t.co/BWslkjwzlm

Maguire, who has captained United in their past four league games, continued: "We want to get back to clean sheets; we're working hard to get clean sheets. We're not conceding many chances in many games, but it's something that we're going to work on. We're going to improve."

United haven't kept a clean sheet in the league since they beat Leicester City 1-0 at home on September 14. Their only other Premier League clean sheet this campaign was the 4-0 opening-day win over Chelsea. The club has also been hampered by the drop in form of goalkeeper David De Gea, who was guilty of an embarrassing gaffe in the Week 18 defeat at Watford, as Sky Sports shared (UK only):

Sky Sports Premier League @SkySportsPL

Oh no, David de Gea 🙈 📺 Watch on Sky Sports Premier League 📱 Follow #WATMUN here: https://t.co/oHysEgKG9M 📲 Download the @SkySports app! https://t.co/KbHiP6gmsY

Solskjaer showed plenty of initial promise as United manager at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019, but as results have got steadily worse, a lot of talk has since turned towards the long-term project at Old Trafford. Supporters may only be willing to accept that excuse for so long before they demand better results, though a run of one defeat in their past eight matches in all competitions shows improvement.

United travel to Burnley on Saturday in what will be their final fixture of 2019, hoping to clinch back-to-back league wins for only the second time this season.