Harry Maguire feels run in starting XI vindicates decision to stay at Man Utd

Harry Maguire feels vindicated in his decision to stay and fight for his spot at Manchester United, having forced his way back into Erik ten Hag’s team.

The 30-year-old’s future seemed set to lie away from Old Trafford after the blow of losing his starting place was compounded by being stripped of the captaincy over the summer, but a potential move to West Ham – or elsewhere – did not materialise.

And Maguire’s self-belief never wavered, with the under-fire defender repeatedly underlining his confidence about winning back his place at United.

That sounded far-fetched to many, but is precisely what he has managed, with the England international starting their last eight matches in all competitions.

Asked it feels like personal vindication for staying at United, Maguire said: “Of course.

“I played a few games last year, 16 or 17 starts, and I felt like I performed really well in the games I played in. I just didn’t play as many as I would have liked.

“On the other hand, Rapha (Varane) and Licha (Lisandro Martinez) were playing brilliantly and kept numerous clean sheets. I had to bide my time and be patient.

“I had two or three opportunities last season to get a run of games but I broke down with illness, I broke down with injuries twice, so I never got the rhythm and never got the run of games that I could prove myself to the manager.

“I have got that now, I am really enjoying my football and I really enjoy playing for this club.

“I was willing to stay and fight for my place and we have four, five top international centre-backs at this club and the competition for places is really high.”

Maguire has capitalised on injuries over the past six weeks and showed an impressive mentality, which is perhaps unsurprising for a player used to relentless mockery in recent years.

England boss Gareth Southgate said the treatment he faced was “ridiculous”, “a joke” and “beyond anything I’ve ever seen” after September’s win in Scotland came to a backdrop of Hampden Park abuse.

Maguire brushed it off as “banter” as he continued to block out criticism and abuse, saying his career to date has helped him retain a self-belief many would have seen dented.

“Working hard in training is the main thing and making sure you’re ready,” the United defender said. “But I started 16 or 17 games last year and felt like my form was there.

“There was a lot of talk about me because I wasn’t playing games, but that is the way it is.

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Harry Maguire, second left, and his Manchester United team were 1-0 winners over Luton on Saturday (Jon Super/AP)

“I was playing well for my country, went to the World Cup and played well and always thought my form was there.

“But I am up against some top, top-level centre-backs and last year they were playing amazing, so I didn’t get as many opportunities as I would have liked.

“This club demands competition for places and that is what we have in my position.”

Maguire’s focus now turns to England matters before United reunite and refocus on improvements after edging past Luton 1-0 on Saturday.

It was a fourth win in five Premier League matches but improvements in front of goal are needed.

Misfiring Marcus Rashford has scored just once this term, with Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho, Antony and Anthony Martial yet to open their Premier League accounts.

“That’s what everyone will be talking about,” Maguire said. “I see (the forwards) day in, day out in training and I play with internationals next week at England and the lads in training at United.

“The top players all have the ability to score goals. At the moment we are not scoring enough goals and we know that.

“But we aren’t keeping enough clean sheets as well – that’s how I look at it.

“I think in the past you’ve seen our attackers are top-quality players and can do it.

Manchester United v Luton Town – Premier League – Old Trafford
Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund walks by manager Erik ten Hag after going off with an injury against Luton (Martin Rickett/PA)

“Maybe a little bit of luck will turn and they’ll get the first one and the goals will follow. I am sure they will because they are all very good players.”

Hojlund’s struggles domestically are particularly surprising given nobody has scored more Champions League group-stage goals than the summer signing.

“Ras is a top player,” Maguire added. “I think you’ve seen his work ethic and what he brings to the team in recent weeks. He does a lot more than scoring goals.

“He scores goals in training, you’ve seen him score goals in the Champions League and I am sure it is a matter of time before he bangs a few in the Prem as well.”