Harry Maguire is looking forward to a ‘fresh start’ at Manchester United under Erik ten Hag
Harry Maguire stood behind a camera to film this Manchester United Fans chant his name at a Melbourne Hotel on Saturday, and for at least a moment it must have felt like everything was fine in his world.
But the truth is no United player needs to make a fresh start under a new manager at Old Trafford Eric ten Hag more than Maguire.
Ten Hag confirmed the £80million United centre-back will remain captain when the squad landed in Bangkok last week to start their pre-season tour.
The fact that there was any doubt at all says a lot about a hot year in Maguire’s life on and off the pitch, which he admitted on Saturday was “certainly a setback in my career path”.
No Manchester United player needs to start fresh this season more than Harry Maguire
The 29-year-old’s suitability to skipper was questioned even by his own team-mates amid talk of a clash of personalities with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Maguire suffered a dip in form which also saw him lose his place in interim manager Ralf Rangnick’s team towards the end of United’s worst season of the Premier League era.
Rangnick only fueled the captaincy debate by saying older players should vote on who wears the armband at United.
Maguire was also booed by England fans while he played against Ivory Coast at Wembley in March, and then had to move his partner Fern – whom he married in the south of France last month – and their two children after a bomb threatened at their home in April.
There is talk of a clash of personalities with United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo
Maguire was booed by English fans when he played Ivory Coast at Wembley in March
“Listen, last year was disappointing,” Maguire said at a Q&A with about 30 fans in Melbourne on Saturday, which also included Anthony Martial, Alex Telles and Tom Heaton.
“I didn’t play well as an individual player and we certainly didn’t play well as a team. But a good career can take 10 to 15 years, and you will never have every year where everything goes smoothly and you don’t have any difficulties.
“You will have to fight, you will have setbacks and the last year has certainly been a setback for me in my career path.
“Everyone – the players, the club – knows last year wasn’t nearly good enough, but it’s a fresh start and we have a big season ahead of us.
He has retained the United captaincy despite speculation Erik ten Hag would make a move
Maguire believes “little glimpses” of Ten Hag’s principles can already be seen in the pre-season
“It’s behind us now and we’re looking forward to the future and getting this club to win trophies again, that’s what it’s all about.”
Despite Ten Hag’s vote of confidence, the road might not be easy for Maguire. The impending arrival of Lisandro Martinez in a £46m deal from Ajax will only increase the competition for places at centre-back.
Maguire’s form is still under scrutiny and he was criticized for his part in Melbourne Victory’s goal at Friday’s MCG as United won 4-1 after missing the win over Liverpool in Bangkok with a tight hamstring.
But the former Leicester defender believes he and the rest of the United squad will be ready when they start the season at home against Brighton in three weeks’ time after a trying pre-season under Ten Hag.
The side trained in Melbourne for two and a half hours on Saturday, despite playing the night before.
The impending arrival of Lisandro Martinez from Ajax will only increase the competition for places
Maguire admits United’s grueling schedule has been ‘tough’ under Ten Hag
“It was hard. The race was tough but we’re really looking forward to the season,” added Maguire.
“Erik and his coaching staff bring their ideas and in the first two games you saw little glimpses of the principles.
“We’re working to be ready for that first Premier League game, that’s what matters. All we’re doing now is building for this first game.
When United were last in Melbourne, the club had just won the Treble in 1999 under Sir Alex Ferguson. They came here this week under quite different circumstances after finishing sixth last season.
Midfielder Scott McTominay admitted the players shouldn’t escape criticism over the slump, admitting it “touched a nerve” in the squad.
Scott McTominay says United players should not escape criticism for their slump last season
“You play for Man United, you will be criticized,” said McTominay. “If you think you’re going to come and play for Man United and you don’t get a bit of criticism here and there, then you’ve got the wrong job because that’s just not how football works at this club.
“Maybe you need to look in the mirror a little bit, because that’s just part of the game. Everyone gets criticized, this is the world we live in. Social media criticism: You only see what you want to see. That is also part of it.
“It’s obviously difficult to talk about that last season. It struck a chord when we as a group talk about it again.
“It’s not nice and that has to be the motivation to get things back on track now and fight for trophies again under the new boss because I know this team is more than capable of that.”