Harry Maguire reflects on England return
Harry Maguire insists England are "striving to improve" after winning their Euro 2020 group on Tuesday night, while his manager, Gareth Southgate, believes the Manchester United captaincy has helped boost Maguire as a player and a leader.
Raheem Sterling scored his second goal of the tournament to give England a relatively comfortable victory against Czech Republic at Wembley. Having beaten Croatia and drawn with Scotland, the Three Lions notched a total of seven points and qualify for the knockout rounds as winners of Group D.
After suffering an unfortunate injury against Aston Villa while in a United shirt back in May, Maguire was absent for our UEFA Europa League Final before missing England's first two games of the Euros, too.
With full fitness regained, Southgate brought him back into the starting line-up and Maguire impressed in England's win.
“I’ve been out of action for six and a half weeks now and it’s been tough,” Maguire told BBC Radio 5Live.
“It’s been tough to watch, I don’t like watching football matches so to be back on the pitch is something I love doing, and to be at Wembley in the first time for me playing in a European Championships, it’s a good feeling and it’s all the hard work that I’ve put in that I’ve been able to play 90 minutes.
“We’ve set out to win the group and we’ve done that. Seven points, three games. Can we play better? Of course we can. Will we improve? We’ll do everything we can.
“Three clean sheets, been solid, good foundations, haven't conceded from a set play. The fundamentals are there and now we’ve got to tidy up in every part of our game.
“I still think there’s a little bit more we can get out of each other and push each other. If we're going progress in this tournament, we need to do that.
“In tournament football, it’s about - I know everyone wants to play well, create numerous chances, but teams are well-drilled and well-organised - but big moments in big games and not giving the opponents big moments to score from and at the moment we are doing that well.
“It’s not all perfect and we can improve but you can’t argue with seven points from three games. It's great from the lads. The pressure was on to win the group and we've managed to do that. Now it’s to look forward to the knockouts and keep striving to improve.”
Having travelled as an England fan to watch Euro 2016 in France, Maguire is now representing his country on the same stage. His rapid rise to the elite level of football is perhaps underestimated.
“I was in France five years ago so it’s been a crazy journey for myself and my family and my friends who were with me in France,” said the United skipper.
“I’m a passionate England fan and when I’ve not been playing the first two games I’ve been kicking and heading every ball in the stands because I want the team to do well whether I’m playing or not.”
After Ashley Young left United to join Inter Milan in early 2020, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave Maguire the captain's armband. England boss Gareth Southgate believes that decision has helped Maguire's game significantly.
"We've noted over the last 12 months but certainly the last six months how when you become the captain of Manchester United the impact that must have on your confidence, and the improvement in his leadership and his desire to step forward and have an influence on the wider group shines through," explained the 50-year-old.
"The dressing room doesn't need as much voice from the coaches before a game as perhaps it did a couple of years ago. You can hear all of those players getting around each other and there are several others who add in to that. That's a healthy environment. It's a good sign for the team now and moving forward."