Harry Maguire still has a lot to prove at Manchester United

Manchester United club captain Harry Maguire has enjoyed a successful international break with England over the past week.

He played the full ninety minutes in England’s two Euro 2024 qualifiers, a 2-1 win over Italy in Naples and a 2-0 win over Ukraine at Wembley.

Despite losing his starting job at United, England manager Gareth Southgate has supported Maguire, and over the past week he has been rewarded with two impressive performances that helped him to six ranking points and top spot in the World Cup. Group C.

This continued a pattern familiar to Maguire; disappointing at club level, he still thrives in international football. He looks a different player in an England shirt, more composed and less prone to mistakes, and has been chosen for the team of the tournament for both the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 European Championships.

Maguire did not complete a hat-trick at the World Cup in Qatar late last year, but he still managed to impress as England reached the quarter-finals.

In the warm embrace of the national setup, where Maguire acknowledges he feels appreciated, he also felt emboldened to vent his frustration at his current diminished state at Old Trafford.

“I feel like I’m 30, but I really shouldn’t need to prove myself at this level,” Maguire said. “I have more than 50 caps. I am the defender with the most goals in England.

“I’ve played almost 200 times for Manchester United, I’ve captained the club for three years, but I understand that when you captain Manchester United, you put yourself under most of the scrutiny.

“Obviously last season was difficult for the club, but listen, I have proven my worth to Gareth, who works with a wide range of centre-backs. He has the choice of every English centre-back in the country and every time I’ve been available, I’ve been in the team. I’m sure if you ask the rest of the guys they know what I bring to the team.”

“Last season at the club level, my performance was not good enough, along with everyone else at the club level, it was not just me who had problems. Everyone else fought.”

“I also see myself as a leader for my club,” Maguire said. “Obviously this season, I haven’t played as much as I would like, but for my club, I feel like my form has been good this year. I know people obviously see that I don’t play, but when I did play, I think in my last eight or nine starts for Manchester United, we’ve won. So my influence is still here.”

It takes enormous confidence to claim that he has nothing more to prove when he has lost his starting job at his club, and with it the team captaincy, and is now effectively Manchester United’s fifth central defender.

Maguire’s losing streak at club level began in the disastrous 2021-22 season, but during it neither Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before he was sacked in November nor his interim successor Ralf Rangnick had the courage to leave him.

This was left to new United manager Erik ten Hag, who started Maguire in his first two games of the season, but after witnessing his displays in a 2-1 defeat to Brighton and a 4-0 defeat to Brentford immediately shut him out.

Since then, Maguire has been forced to watch as a pair of World Cup winners, Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martínez, formed an impressive partnership and established themselves as United’s first-choice centre-backs.

But more worrying for Maguire is that over the course of the season he has slipped further back in line behind Victor Lindelof, and even Luke Shaw, a natural left-back, whom Ten Hag has started at centre-back instead of him. . at once.

So far this season, Maguire has started just 12 of Manchester United’s 46 games in all competitions, coming on as a substitute in a further 12 games. He’s also had the unfamiliar role of being an unused substitute in 12 games this season.

To Maguire’s credit, he accepted his new supporting role with good grace, and played a major role when called upon. A solid player when he got off to an unusual start, when he was called up from the bench late in games, he also helped shore up United’s defense and defend their leads.

No one was saddened by Maguire playing the last two minutes of the Carabao Cup final win over Newcastle United at Wembley last month before lifting the trophy under new team captain Bruno Fernandes, having played in three previous games in the competition.

But overall, Ten Hag decided he prefers the greater pace, positioning and passing ability of Varane and Martinez, accepting that Maguire’s lack of mobility is a risk he can’t afford to take in the biggest games.

Maguire’s declaration that he has nothing to prove is not the mindset of a man who is desperate to win his place in the side, and has possibly accepted that his demotion is not something he can change quickly.

A mutually beneficial parting of the ways this summer is very likely; United have shown they can thrive without him, and Maguire, at the age of 30, will not want to sit on the bench for much longer, especially as he could start to jeopardize his prized starting place in the England squad.

United need to raise funds to spend on the transfer market this summer and Maguire, despite his recent travails, remains an admired player who would still attract plenty of interest in the Premier League and beyond.

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