By 90Min
September 18, 2019

Early on in the second half of Manchester United and Leicester City's recent meeting at Old Trafford, an almighty roar erupted from the Stretford End. The United faithful weren't celebrating a goal, they were celebrating a tackle. 

With Demarai Gray looking to break down the right hand side - and with only his former teammate Harry Maguire to beat - ol' Slabhead stood firm, dispossessing the Foxes winger before swatting him aside and marauding up the pitch to start an attack of his own making. 

This moment has already been canonised by some Manchester United fans as the point in which Maguire became a fully fledged Red Devils hero, the immovable centre-back gallantly standing up to the hysterical Leicester fans who had had the audacity to boo their former talisman when his name was read out before the match. 

It's certainly a nice image - a compelling one as well - however Maguire's tackle is in reality far more symbolic of the point that Demarai Gray is at in his career, as opposed to where the England international is at in his. 

Let's flash back to the moment in question, whilst also adding some 'exposition' as they say in Hollywood. 

Gray inclusion in the starting XI was a shock. The winger had been absent from the squad altogether during the Foxes' opening two fixtures and a solitary substitute appearance against Bournemouth was the only prior time Gray had featured this season. 

Ross Kinnaird/GettyImages

His selection was incredibly harsh on both Marc Albrighton and Harvey Barnes, the latter of which had been in particularly scintillating form in the Foxes' back-to-back wins over Sheffield United and the Cherries. 


With such a wealth of talent missing out, surely this was the ideal chance for Gray to take his opportunity and firmly establish himself in Brendan Rodgers' rotation? If it was, he didn't take it. 

Gray's stats from the game make for grim reading, with the winger managing just one shot and one successful dribble out of the five that he attempted. Then there was that moment against Maguire. 

All that Gray needed to do was take a heavy touch past the centre-back and use his far superior pace to drive past the notoriously slow on the half-turn defender. Instead - indicative of a player bereft of ideas and confidence - the 23-year-old could only limply tap the ball into Maguire's path, before allowing himself to be bodied away in the ultimate display of physical inferiority. 

A dejected Gray was hauled off soon after this for the far more exciting Harvey Barnes. Another disappointing performance in what is threatening to be a overall, underwhelming Leicester career for the ex-Birmingham City man. This is a real shame, as Gray has so frequently shown such promise. 

Brought in midway through the 2015/2016 campaign to provide some reinforcements for the Foxes inconceivably brilliant title push, Gray was used fairly frequently by Claudio Ranieri during the final third of the season. Often coming on to replace a fatigued Marc Albrighton, he received praise from a few of the Foxes regulars for his energetic contributions. 

Michael Regan/GettyImages

All in all, Gray would make ten appearances for his new side - more than enough to make him eligible for a Premier League winners medal - and the good times kept on rolling the season after, with the winger making five appearances as Leicester reached the Champions League quarter finals. 

That same 2016/2017 campaign, the youngster was unlucky not to win the September goal of the month award for a sumptuous strike against Manchester United in September. Picking the ball up of the left-hand side, the winger drove inside and curled an unstoppable shot past David de Gea.

More involvement in the first team came during the 2017/2018 season with Gray missing just three Premier League games. Last season was a similar story. The winger played a part in all but four of the Foxes fixtures, also contributing the Foxes moment of the season - a superb goal against Cardiff City a week after the tragic death of the club's chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. 

Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Taken in isolation, all this seems to suggest that Gray has had a successful career to date. Always around the first team, playing in big games and popping up with some iconic moments... what's not to love? 

The biggest problem with this idyllic image of his time at Leicester is the 23-year-old's remarkable inconsistency. Iconic moments aside, Gray has often contributed so negligibly to the team that is easy to forget that he's even playing. He's a volatile flame that occasionally burns bright, but very often does not burn at all. 

Over the course of his time in the east Midlands, Gray has notched up 140 appearances and scored ten goals. That's one in every 14 games. That's not good enough. The defence of him being more of a creative forward holds very little clout as well - he's only managed 12 assists during the same amount of time. 

The damning statistics don't stop there. Last season, Gray averaged less than one dribble per game and one key pass every 180 minutes. Again, this is quite simply not good enough for a Premier League winger - particularly one playing for a side with apparent European ambitions. 

It's not like this offensive output has been restricted by his over-bearing defensive responsibilities. Unlike Marc Albrighton, who shuttles up and down the flanks like he's at some kind of army-style boot camp, or even Ayoze Perez who helps the team defensively with his intelligent and committed pressing, Gray has largely been afforded complete offensive freedom by a series of managers - even operating as a second striker under Craig Shakespeare and Claude Puel. 

OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

All this begs the question... what is Demarai Gray actually good at? Of course, the 23-year-old still has youth on his side and could very well improve but with so many coaches before Brendan Rodgers failing to develop the winger, the former Celtic boss certainly has his work cut out. 


Only time will tell whether Harry Maguire humiliating him in front of over 70,000 people at Old Trafford marked the beginning of the end, or the start of a resurrection for Gray's career at Leicester City.

You May Like