Why Harry Maguire was born for this club
As weeks go, securing the move you had long dreamt of, adjusting to life at your new club, going straight into the starting XI and making your debut against one of the Premier League’s leading sides marks out an eventful few days.
For Harry Maguire, however, there was nary even a raised eyebrow. The England international simply took everything in his stride, slotted into his new surroundings off the field and walked away with Sky Sports’ Man of the Match award after a flawless display as United ran out 4-0 winners against Chelsea.
“It’s been seamless,” says Reds goalkeeper Lee Grant of his new team-mate.
“Harry has definitely slotted straight in, in terms of the social side and in terms of his mentality and attitude, which has been first class.
“The most important thing, though, is his quality and he was able to show that against Chelsea. We could all see he is quite at home in front of the Old Trafford crowd and quite at home as a Manchester United player.”
“He’s so calm,” echoes Diogo Dalot.
“He’s settled in perfectly. He’s a very nice guy, very humble, very quick to settle. We’ll keep helping him, but I think he’s already shown everyone on the pitch that he’s ready for this club.”
Seemingly immune to pressure, Maguire has not arrived at Old Trafford armed with a raft of experience at one of the world’s leading clubs.
Rather, his move to United was the unstoppable next step in an evolution that’s been gathering pace since his early days at Sheffield United.
By the time he faced future team-mates Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba in the 2011 FA Youth Cup final between the Reds and the Blades, Maguire had already made five senior appearances for Micky Adams’s side in the Championship.
The 18-year-old’s early experiences of first-team football were chastening affairs as the Blades slipped down to League One, particularly heartbreaking for a passionate local lad who’d grown up and earned his trade at Bramall Lane.
Far from disheartened, however, the youngster instead established himself as a cornerstone of a youthful new Blades side which earned an instant shot at a return to the Championship under Danny Wilson by reaching the 2012 League One play-off final against Huddersfield Town.
Though Maguire helped keep a clean sheet in a goalless draw, then scored his spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out, the Blades were ultimately beaten and consigned to another season in the third tier.
After 2012/13 ended in another play-off defeat, this time in the semi-final, 2013/14 brought an unlikelier shot at glory as the Blades reached the FA Cup semi-finals.
Fronted with Steve Bruce’s Hull City, the odds were stacked high. Though the underdogs twice took the lead, the Premier League side eventually proved too strong and ran out 5-3 winners. Maguire, no respecter of reputations or occasions, was excellent.
“Even though we won that day, Harry was outstanding,” recalls former Tigers defender Alex Bruce, son of Reds legend Steve.
“Dad had been watching him anyway, and after the way he performed at Wembley, Dad came away from the stadium and said: ‘I’m taking him next season.’
“Harry was very good. Took the ball lovely, brought it out from the back like we’ve all seen him do. Dad didn’t mess about; he went and signed him not long after that game. Then he was with us in time for the next season.
“As soon as he walked through the door at Hull, the first thing we all thought was: ‘Jesus, what a big lad!’ He had so much presence, even though he was just a young lad who had made the big jump from League One. We knew that, for a young lad, he’d played a lot of games. It was a big jump, going from League One to the Premier League, but my old man led him in and out of the team and he learnt his trade at the top level.
“He made a couple of mistakes, like every young defender does, but on the whole you could tell he was going to be an exceptional defender, purely because of how good he was on the ball, his size, how he took the ball comfortably, he was good in the air, he had all the makings of being a really good centre-half. We could all soon tell that he was going to be an exceptional defender.”
A handful of first-team outings in Maguire’s debut term with Hull were supplemented by a loan spell at Wigan and, although both clubs were ultimately relegated from the Premier League and Championship respectively that season, it was in 2015/16 that the youngster played his way into regularity with his parent club.
Maguire took a key role as the Tigers bounced straight back into the top flight – once again via Wembley, beating Sheffield Wednesday in the play-off final – and United repeatedly witnessed his excellence in 2016/17 as he took the Premier League by storm.
Hull were obdurate opponents across four head-to-head meetings that season, in which the Reds were repeatedly frustrated by the Tigers’ defensive resolve, with Maguire especially outstanding in a goalless Premier League draw at Old Trafford.
Thus, when Marco Silva’s side were relegated at the end of the season, Maguire was quickly picked up by an ambitious Leicester City, where another two campaigns of excellence – including a starring role in England’s run to the 2018 World Cup semis – prompted sustained interest from United.
It was the Reds’ narrow 1-0 win at the King Power Stadium in February which convinced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to try and bring him to Old Trafford this summer.
“I made my mind up then that if it was possible to get him, we would. He was always my number one target,” revealed the Norwegian, before the season opener against Chelsea.
“He is so composed on the ball and gives the team another dimension. He’s a leader, an established international, a goal threat, a very, very good defender – and also a very composed ball player. I know Harry is going to have a massive impact on us. You can see the impact he’s had on the group in the week he’s been in. Harry has already shown what a presence he will be.”
Harry is a Red! Gallery
Check out all the insider pics from Maguire's arrival at United.
Already nicknamed ‘The Beast’ inside the corridors of the Aon Training Complex, Maguire’s early impressions have been swift and substantial.
“He’s a big guy,” smiles Dalot.
“We already knew from the days he played at Leicester but it’s different when you see him in real life every day. We have a few young lads here, including myself, so to have that kind of experience in the dressing room is good. And of course, his natural leadership will be very good for the club.”
Sure enough, the early signs have backed up the confidence of Maguire’s new colleagues.
His assimilation to life as a United player has been almost seamless and, according to his former team-mate, there is a very good reason for this.
“He’s just a Manchester United player all day long, and he probably always has been one in the making,” says Alex Bruce.
“The size of him, he can brush people out of the way. He’s so confident on the ball, and when he starts running at you, opponents panic and it takes some stopping him.
“He always wants the ball, he starts attacks from defence better than anybody else in the game, for me, and United supporters will absolutely love him. He was born for this club.”
This feature first appeared in Saturday's edition of United Review.