JOE BERNSTEIN: Harry Maguire is finally sticking up for himself after growing tired of being the national punchbag… by talking up a January move, the Man United defender is taking control of his own destiny
- Harry Maguire pointed to his win record in a shot at his critics earlier this week
- It now appears that Maguire is willing to leave in January for regular game-time
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
Having been a national punchbag for a couple of years, Harry Maguire decided to come out fighting this week ahead of Friday night’s match against Australia and it looks as if the 30-year-old Manchester United and England star is finally ready to put himself first.
After taking the ridicule and abuse from supporters of all kinds, including himself, Maguire has won admiration for the way he’s handled it all and there was sympathy as he firmly backed his record, citing his ‘ridiculous win percentage’ and refusal to ‘sit here all my life and play once a month’.
Why now to shift the narrative from victim to a man ready to take control of his own destiny?
First of all, he would have been buoyed by the public support of Gareth Southgate, David Beckham and even his own family.
Beckham told him to remember all the good things he’s done in his career and there are plenty to reflect on.
Harry Maguire has spoken defiantly this week as he looks to take back control of his career
Maguire was relegated to sixth choice centre back under Erik ten Hag – but his stock is rising
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Captain of Manchester United for three-and-a-half years, 60 England caps including a World Cup semi-final and Euro 2020 final. He remains the Premier League’s most expensive defender at £80million.
Secondly, the power game between him and manager Erik ten Hag has shifted in the player’s favour. Ten Hag’s United have not been winning without Maguire, who had been relegated to sixth-choice centre-half.
When Maguire was given his first Premier League start on Saturday because of an injury crisis at Old Trafford, he helped rescue the team with a headed assist for the late winning goal for Scott McTominay against Brentford. Nobody was booing him then.
Ten Hag was hailed as a genius last season when he dealt tough with Cristiano Ronaldo and led United to their first trophy since 2017.
Maguire (middle row, orange bib) is unhappy spending most of his time sitting on the bench
He made a crucial contribution in the win over Brentford and now knows he wants to play more
The ruthlessness extended to the summer when he stripped Maguire of the captaincy but since then question-marks have been raised about the Dutchman’s style and judgement with Jadon Sancho banished to train with the kids and £85million signing Antony – someone Ten Hag wanted to sign as a priority – missing games following allegations of domestic violence, which he has strenuously denied.
READ: Maguire is right! Under-fire defender has the best record at Manchester United under Erik ten Hag… and the rest of the team with the best win rate doesn’t look great for the Dutchman either
It’s now plausible to think Maguire has been treated rather harshly by Ten Hag and the 30-year-old is taking advantage.
He is now talking up a January move from United if he loses his place in the team again, important if he wants to be guaranteed a starting place at Euro 2024.
Though Southgate has been fantastically loyal he now has genuine alternatives to partner John Stones with Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace) and Levi Colwill (Chelsea) both enjoying excellent seasons so far in the Premier League.
Maguire is shrewd enough to know this, revisiting all his options at club level. His view on West Ham, who wanted him last summer, was very revealing when he spoke on Tuesday.
The perception at the time was Maguire had turned the Hammers down because they were somehow beneath him because they weren’t in the Champions League. He was keen to put the record straight on that.
David Beckham is among those to have reached out to Maguire to remind him of his qualities
Maguire has grown weary of being the national punchbag and is now keen to fight back
‘It wasn’t agreed between both clubs so the actual opportunity wasn’t there. It wasn’t my choice to say “Yes, I’m going”,’ he said.
‘West Ham is a massive club. My full focus is still on Manchester United, I want to fight for my place but of course regular game time is really important to me.’
David Moyes will be interested in that should he want to bolster his defence in the next transfer window.
This is the new emboldened Harry Maguire. It will be interesting to see how the England fans react at Wembley on Friday night. He might find they like him sticking up for himself.
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
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