In Depth

‘When Harry met Silly’: Maguire’s nightmare season continues

Southgate and Kane back the England defender after his red card against Denmark

Everything seems to be going from bad to worse for Manchester United and England defender Harry Maguire.

Life was good for Maguire after he starred for the Three Lions in their run to the Fifa World Cup semi-final in 2018. A year later he secured a big-money transfer from Leicester City to United for a reported £80m - a record fee for a defender - and was also made captain of the Red Devils. 

However, after the highs of the World Cup and his move to Old Trafford, the 27-year-old has suffered lows both on and off the pitch. 

In August he was arrested on the Greek island of Mykonos and found guilty of repeated bodily harm, attempted bribery, violence against public employees and insult after arrest. After the trial he was handed a suspended sentence of 21 months and ten days in prison.

Maguire’s legal team has appealed this and he insists he did nothing wrong and that his “conscience is clear”.

The off-field issues have no doubt affected his performances on the pitch. With United he was part of the team that was hammered 6-1 by Tottenham at Old Trafford on 4 October then on Wednesday evening he saw red for two bookable offences as England lost 1-0 to Denmark in the Nations League.

‘Amateurish’

On its back page on Wednesday, the Daily Mail did not hold back with its headline, which read, “When Harry met Silly! Hapless Maguire sees red and England limp to defeat”. 

It was a “shambolic” 31 minutes for Maguire at Wembley, BBC Sport reports. He was lucky not to be sent off for his first offence, a reckless early lunge at Yussuf Poulsen, but just after the half-hour mark he “put himself out of his own misery”. 

After “amateurish” control Maguire then lunged in again, this time on Kasper Dolberg, and the referee had no hesitation showing him a second yellow, then red. 

Maguire looked “totally devoid of confidence, a lost soul and an accident waiting to happen”, says the BBC’s Phil McNulty. He questions whether Maguire, who is sadly looking like a defensive liability for club and country, now needs a longer break from the game.

The centre-half’s run of substandard displays “stretches back longer than anyone would like”, says ESPN’s James Olley, and the depth of his on-field slump “can no longer be hidden”.

Speaking on Sky Sports following the defeat against Denmark, former United and England defender Gary Neville said: “It sums up his last four to six weeks. It is a terrible time for him. 

“Watching that Tottenham vs. Manchester United game ten days ago when obviously Harry Maguire had a bad time, you were thinking that he needed international duty just to get away, a different environment. But it has not served him well. He will go back in as bad of a place as he came.”

Southgate and Kane: he’ll bounce back

Following the criticism from the press and from fans, England head coach Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane have both come out in support of Maguire. 

Southgate is backing the defender to return to form and said to Sky Sports: “He has been getting all sorts [of criticism] for a while from people who should know better. For me, he is a top player and a massive part of what we do. He is having a period where he is getting a lot of stick thrown his way. He is big enough to deal with that and he will be stronger for it. He has our full support and I know his club will be the same.”

England skipper Kane echoed the words of his boss. “There were a couple of challenges that he would love to have back and probably not make,” said the Spurs striker. “It’s all part of the learning curve, still part of the experience at international level. Of course, he will be disappointed for the boys, but he’ll bounce back.”

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