After a disappointing start to the season, Harry Maguire was under serious pressure to perform against West Ham on Sunday afternoon, with the England international replacing the injured Raphael Varane. Given that the Frenchman and Lisandro Martinez had formed a solid partnership, supporters were somewhat nervous about Maguire’s return.
Maguire has struggled for form at Old Trafford for over a year, and had been limited to just six appearances prior to the 1-0 win over the Hammers at the weekend. The 29-year-old, who has been sidelined in recent weeks with an injury, has come under intense scrutiny from fans, former players and pundits in recent months, while others have leapt to his defence.
United secured an important victory over David Moyes’ side on Sunday, with Marcus Rashford scoring his 100th goal for the club with a crucial winner in the second half. Erik ten Hag’s men came under pressure throughout the clash, but stood strong until the end – and Maguire was part of that.
In September, Ten Hag insisted that he believes in Reds captain Maguire and is convinced the centre-back will recover from his prolonged malaise. The former Leicester man often became the main talking point in the Dutchman’s press conferences, but the United boss continued to publicly back his player.
Maguire performed well against Sheriff in the Europa League last week, but his showing against West Ham proved that he still has what it takes to deliver at the top level for the Reds. The defender was challenged by his manager to turn it around, and he made a positive start in doing so at the weekend.
“First of all, of course, I have to coach him, I have to back him but I back him because I believe in him,” Ten Hag in September. “In the period I worked with him, pre-season was good, it was really good, training and games, so then he fell out but it’s also to do with the good performances of the centre-backs who playing now.
“But I can see the qualities and even after he wasn’t in the team he trained really well and more importantly, the quality was really there. You see his career, almost 50 caps for England, for Leicester and Man United he’s performing really well, what you see is high potential.
“And then it’s about him, the players in the dressing room, the coaches, the manager believe in him. That’s what I told him, I’m sure he can do it and he will turn it around, I’m convinced of that.”
Maguire made a clearance off the line against the Hammers, and made several important blocks. His ability to find his teammates with long-range passes was also demonstrated as the defender, alongside Martinez, Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw, helped to prevent the away side from scoring late in the clash.
With Varane likely to be sidelined for United until after the World Cup in Qatar, Maguire will have the opportunity to impress in the coming weeks. He will have to compete with Victor Lindelof to start alongside Martinez, but the United skipper will fancy his chances.
The centre-back is almost certainly guaranteed a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming tournament, and it would come as a surprise if the 29-year-old didn’t start in England’s first match. While the pause in the season is frowned upon by many, it does allow Maguire the chance to continue to rediscover his form – and that could benefit United in the long run.