Booed at Old Trafford, booed at Wembley, how can Manchester United captain Harry Maguire win back the hearts and minds of fans of club and country?
Every player loses form at one point or another in their career, and as England manager Gareth Southgate was keen to point out after England’s 3-0 victory over the Ivory Coast last night, it is surely the fans’ job to get behind their man rather than put nails into his coffin.
There is no condoning the booing, or the sarcastic cheering that echoed around Old Trafford earlier this month when Maguire was substituted in the 1-0 home defeat to Atletico Madrid that saw United exit the Champions League.
However, it can, perhaps, be explained.
In some ways you might argue that the booing is not so much for Maguire but for the managers who keep selecting him, no matter what. It seems unfair.
Marcus Rashford, for example, has also struggled for form over the past 12 months but you could argue he has not been the liability that Maguire has become. Yet he has been dropped by Ralf Rangnick at United and by Gareth Southgate for England.
At United, Maguire has not even been stripped of the captaincy, despite a horrific lack of team unity and cohesion, dressing room rifts and mutinies and often, complete confusion and surrender on the pitch.
In that context, Maguire must be the worst captain in Manchester United’s history. He is simply not the right character to lead the team and it beggars belief that he is still in that position despite the presence of gifted leaders such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes.
This is not on Maguire, it is on the manager(s).
As for the catalogue of mistakes and blunders he has committed individually both this season and last, four managers – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick and Rangnick at United and Southgate for England – have stood by him, time and again.
Not only did Solskjaer never drop the 29 year old, he played him in every single minute of every single game, as if he was the tower of strength around which the team should be built.
It is as if there is a myth that dropping him will make things worse rather than better. That he needs to play through this bad patch. Well, that doesn’t seem to be working.
Some argue that too much is expected of Maguire due to his £80 million price tag, but others argue that perhaps the price tag is what is saving him. United may believe that as long as he is captain and a first team starter, his value will be protected more than if he is languishing in the reserves with Phil Jones. What would his resale value be then?
Whatever the reason, Maguire seems almost untouchable. His appalling behaviour on holiday in Mykonos, where he was convicted of assault and attempted bribery of a police officer, was swept under the carpet by both United and Southgate.
Maguire assaulted police officers. He was found guilty. Contrast this with, say, Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood sneaking girls into their hotel rooms during a Covid lockdown in Iceland. They were sent home and banned from playing for England for several months. But good old Harry, we all know he’s innocent, even though he was found guilty by a court of law.
Fans are not stupid. Booing a player is never the right thing to do, but you can understand those supporters’ frustrations. As United fans and England fans, we all want Maguire to come good and be in both starting line-ups through merit and not because of whatever twisted reasons his bosses have for picking him regardless.