Prior to the World Cup, Harry Maguire’s nuclear option of rebuilding his confidence and career away from the pressures of Old Trafford appeared to be a real possibility. The future was gloomy, with only four league starts, a lack of fitness, captaincy in name only, and dropping down the pecking order behind a wall of defensive quality.
But, when he returns to Carrington early next week after a well-deserved holiday following England’s campaign, he will be a foot or so taller, his confidence presumably restored, and he will be ready for the task posed by his club manager.
Erik ten Hag has been in close contact with Maguire throughout the World Cup, telling him to bring his England A game back from Qatar. “I’ve been asked many times if he’s talented enough to play for me, and it’s evident he’s good enough to play at the highest level,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said.
“He has virtually always had good games for England.” Yes, he had a horrible spell in Manchester, and then there were complications. But when he’s sure in himself, he’ll show it on the field. When he works hard, he will gain confidence, as evidenced by the manner he is performing for England.
“We want him to bring that back to Manchester with him so he can bring it to Manchester United on the field.” I know what I expect from him, and the team knows what they expect from him. If he can accomplish that, he’ll be a fantastic player for us.” Ten Hag reveals, in his characteristically honest manner, that Maguire is fighting to reclaim his spot in the team after falling behind Raphael Varane in the pecking order on the right side of the defense.
But, according to the United manager, the battle is far from finished. “My choice of Rapha has nothing to do with Harry. Sometimes it’s because one player is far superior to the other. However, I believe I have two or three good players in the right center-back position.
“I chose after Brentford.” I got a feeling I needed to change something there – I needed to change my mindset. He was unlucky since the timing was awful for him. But it says nothing about his quality or my view of his quality because he can’t do it. I’m confident he has the ability to play in our style and fit into our system.
“All Harry needs to do is train well, and perform well, he has games, he has rhythm, and his opportunity will come.” He’ll get a chance to show it, and then he’ll be in and play.”
Maguire is unlikely to shirk that assignment, especially with United occupied on four fronts. But, if he declines, would the nuclear option resurface? “Only if he no longer wants to remain in these circumstances,” Ten Hag stated. “Until then, I am content with him. I’ve told him and you, and there’s nothing else I can do. It is his responsibility to contribute and integrate himself into the team.”