Maguire: We are ready for the fight
Harry Maguire says the Manchester United dressing room is together and determined to get the Reds on a winning run and lift trophies this season.
The club captain spoke defiantly in an in-depth interview with the national Sunday newspapers, explaining that the players are "angry" with poor results but insisting that the "team spirit is good."
Maguire reaffirmed his pride in wearing the captain's armband at United and his commitment to winning silverware. The 28-year-old England international also outlined his thoughts on the detailed coaching the players have received from interim manager Ralf Rangnick, with his ultimate message being "it's down to us as players."
Read on for every answer from the skipper...
Does it feel like Manchester United against the world at the moment?
“For sure. I think it’s always been like that for United players and we have to deal with it. The most important thing for us is the fans, and we are letting them down. But the support at Old Trafford and at away games is unbelievable still.”
United have a history of coming out fighting when things get tough. Is this a chance to show the real spirit and character in the squad now?
"Exactly that - and we will do. We have to! This team finished second last year and we have a better and bigger squad this year, so we have to show the right attitude. We have big players in the team; leaders. I’m sick of repeating myself but it can’t continue like this - we need to go on a proper run, starting Monday.”
How has the mood been over the past few days? Is there a sense of determination to silence people who have had a pop?
“We are all angry and want to do our best, which has probably come across on the pitch at times. But the team spirit is good, despite what people say. Being a professional footballer, you have to take criticism on the chin and react well to it. At the same time, you have to ignore the outside noise sometimes and just get your head down [in training]. We know if we can put together a run of results then everything else takes care of itself.”
Can you use the criticism as a motivation to prove people wrong?
“I know what you’re saying and sometimes it can be good to have the ‘us against the world’ mentality. I know a lot was written about Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams and the way he used that to spur his players on. He obviously did that brilliantly. I’ve obviously seen a lot of criticism, and a lot of is absolutely justified. But for me, with this team, it shouldn’t need criticism to motivate players. If players of this quality aren't motivated to play for this club when they pull the shirt on, then there’s something wrong.”
Do you feel any of it was justified and how have the players spoken as a group about what needs to be done?
“For sure. From what the fans and ex-players have said, we get it. As I just said, a lot of it is justified and we all have to take massive responsibility, myself as captain as much as anyone, if not more. We’ve got to start playing well and winning.”
What can you do as captain, as a senior player and England international? Do you relish the chance to lead from the front as it were?
“I’m the captain and leader in the dressing room, and I’ve had private conversations with the players and the management which will remain private. Make no mistake about it, I’m here for the fight and I know my team-mates are. I expect them to be and if they’re not then – like I said – there’s something wrong. We have a big squad. Of course, not all players will always be happy as they are not playing but that’s football and we all have to remain professional.”
The Christmas period is tough enough as it is, but with Carrington shut down did that make it the toughest footballing period of your career?
“I wouldn’t say that. It’s the state of the world at the moment. We can’t use Covid as an excuse - we are in a privileged position. A lot of people are far, far worse off than us and we’ve got a duty to support them where we can, like the NHS. So we’ve got to get our heads down and do better, no matter what is thrown our way. Other clubs have the same problems as us.”
Are you still confident the season can bring a trophy or a top-four finish?
“For sure. Like I said, we finished second last year and we have an even better squad now. We need to start winning and playing well as a team.”
Is it fair to expect the new manager to make an instant impact, given the busy schedule and COVID problems, or does that come with the territory at United?
“He has made an impact - we win together and lose together. The manager is there to set us up tactically which we absolutely take on board. We listen to him and his staff. It’s up to us once the game starts. Every club has issues, not just us, and some of their issues are much bigger than ours. But yes, it does come with the territory at United.”
What did you learn from watching United v Wolves as opposed to being on the pitch as you usually are?
“[I felt] frustration, as I wanted to be out there. Phil Jones was great and I have huge respect for him and what he’s been through. He has remained so professional and worked so hard to come back. He’s a great guy and fully committed to the club.”
The fans have really stuck with the team. Tell us how determined you are to give them some hope and something to cheer.
“I came here to win titles. I could have signed elsewhere but I wanted to be at United and help get them back to the winning ways that the club had in the Sir Alex era. It will come if we all stay together. I grew up idolising the likes of Wayne, Rio and Vidic and I want to repeat what they achieved. I’m privileged to be captain and I’ve got a responsibility to lead the players and turn things round.”
Obviously, all United games are big, but just how huge is the Villa game now? Is this a chance to get the club's first trophy for a few seasons and the first one in your career?
“We haven't won the FA Cup enough in recent years. Wayne lifted it last [in 2016]. We’ve got the players to do it, absolutely. We’ve been in so many semis and the Europa League final last year. We just need to get that one trophy and kick on again.”
Ralf has been at the club for a month now. Can you give us an impression of him and his methods as a manager? Is he as detailed as we all heard?
“His detail and preparation are enormous, we have full respect and trust in his methods. Yes, it’s difficult when the coaching team changes mid-season like it does at loads of clubs. [But] I will say it again - it’s down to us as players. The quality and leaders are in the team to ensure we finish the season in the top four and with a trophy.”