Harry Maguire has regained Erik ten Hag’s trust and will be key as Man United face a derby with City and must-win games in Europe… the defender was written off but his professionalism could teach sulking Jadon Sancho a thing or two
- Maguire was deservedly man of the match as Man United won at Bramall Lane
- It continued a good spell of form for a player who’d been widely written off
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
It was an occasion that demanded a steely resolve from Manchester United. Luckily, Sheffield-born Harry Maguire is forged in the stuff.
Booed, mocked, stripped of the captaincy, written off, told to leave and yet still there and performing admirably, Maguire was United’s best player on his return to Bramall Lane on Saturday night.
The England defender felt the love from both sets of supporters before, during and after United’s important 2-1 victory. When presented with the man of the match award, Maguire looked genuinely touched.
But the appreciation was genuine and Maguire deserves great credit for just hanging on in there.
He was widely counselled to leave Old Trafford and seek more game time back in the summer to rescue a nosediving career.
Harry Maguire was excellent as Manchester United beat Sheffield United 2-1 on Saturday night
The defender claimed the man of the match award for what Erik ten Hag described as a ‘proactive’ performance both on and off the ball
Maguire hasn’t often been in favour with Erik ten Hag (right) but things may have changed
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Maguire, though, had the courage of his convictions to stay at United and fight for his place and the mental resilience to keep ploughing on.
Late on Saturday night, Erik ten Hag was singing his praises and it seemed a corner had been turned.
‘I have to say Harry is playing like we want him to play,’ the manager said.
‘Very proactive out of possession, dominating his opponent, stepping in when necessary, reading the game, good covering but also in possession very proactive, stepping in, delivering good passes, switching.
‘Yes, I am happy with his performance.’
Whether Maguire has fully regained the trust of Ten Hag, the manager who unceremoniously dropped him last season, will only become clear once Lisandro Martinez returns from injury.
Manchester City await ominously this weekend and it may be that Maguire drops back out or gets another of those brutal reality checks following an error.
But in the meantime, the 30-year-old is doing everything he can to show he deserves a starting place.
Maguire lost his starting place for United after a horror show away at Brentford last season
Mistakes such as his costly one against Sevilla looked to have ended his Old Trafford career
On Saturday, he played 76 accurate passes – 20 more than the second-highest passer on the pitch, Sofyan Amrabat – including 13 successful long balls.
Man United fixtures
Premier League unless stated
Tuesday Copenhagen (H)
Champions League group stage
Sunday Manchester City (H)
November 1 Newcastle United (H)
Carabao Cup fourth round
November 4 Fulham (A)
November 8 Copenhagen (A)
Champions League group stage
November 11 Luton Town (H)
Maguire won possession back for United eight times, won all of his tackles and five aerial duels.
When Ten Hag spoke of Maguire being proactive, it related to the 14 times he broke into the opposition’s defensive third.
England boss Gareth Southgate has always appreciated Maguire’s ability to carry the ball out of defence, as well as his prowess in the air and the tackle.
Ten Hag has always been less certain when it comes to his ball-playing attributes, so to receive praise from the Dutch coach for just that is significant.
Sheffield United may be propping up the Premier League but this was still a tricky assignment for Ten Hag’s side.
They have endured a very difficult opening to the season and are liable to make very hard work of games against struggling sides.
An additional layer of emotional difficulty was added by news of Sir Bobby Charlton’s death earlier in the day.
‘It hit us hard,’ admitted Maguire post-match.
The momentum gained after Scott McTominay’s dramatic double against Brentford before the international fortnight could easily have vanished.
But United, led by Maguire, got the job done. The 2-1 win, earned through McTominay and Diogo Dalot goals, wasn’t emphatic but it was essential.
It continued Maguire’s record of emerging on the winning side in all eight of his Premier League starts over the past 12 months.
There have been signs Maguire may be returning to his commanding best in recent weeks
Maguire teed up Scott McTominay’s (left) dramatic stoppage time winner against Brentford
Maguire performed well last week as England beat Italy to book their place at Euro 2024
The last time United lost when Maguire started in the league was the 4-0 humbling at Brentford in Ten Hag’s second game in charge that saw him dropped afterwards.
It also continued a good spell of form. Maguire was the one who muscled in to meet the Bruno Fernandes free-kick to tee up McTominay for his winner against Brentford.
He then performed well last Tuesday as England beat Italy to seal qualification for Euro 2024.
At Bramall Lane, Maguire stepped up to the mark, playing nicely alongside Jonny Evans at the back, when quite a few team-mates struggled.
Marcus Rashford struggled to get the ball, Rasmus Hojlund was starved of service and Antony looked well off the pace.
At least Maguire, with his long searching passes, was trying to make something happen.
But the biggest contrast in attitude is with Jadon Sancho.
While the £73million winger rots in United’s reserves with seemingly no chance of making up with Ten Hag after effectively calling his manager a liar, Maguire could teach him a thing or two.
Maguire’s professionalism in adversity could teach the banished Jadon Sancho a few lessons
There seems little prospect of a rapprochement between Sancho and Ten Hag at the minute
Not that Maguire had been banished in such a way but he has certainly taken more than his share of abuse and criticism.
Instead of sulking like Sancho, he showed his professionalism to get his head down in training and waited for an opportunity to get back in United’s team.
In recent weeks he has performed well and Ten Hag has clearly noticed.
It could prove short-lived. United are rarely more than a game or two away from a crisis and tougher matches lie ahead.
Fans still shudder at Maguire’s gaffes against Sevilla last season and his confidence could always be a little higher.
But he certainly deserved the love received from all quarters on Saturday night.
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