Why leader Maguire deserves our backing
As United’s group of internationals head off to join up with their respective countries this week, each one will be aiming to get some game time in, stay injury-free and return to Carrington wholly intent on ending the season positively – none more so than captain Harry Maguire.
The Champions League exit to Atletico Madrid hurt the skipper desperately, and with nine vital Premier League games remaining, Maguire’s sole focus for the rest of the 2021/22 campaign will be to rally the squad and start to turn things around for the club he has taken to his heart since his arrival from Leicester City three years ago.
When selecting Maguire for international duty this week, England manager Gareth Southgate was keen to put some respect on the defender’s name, firmly telling journalists: “He’s been a key part of the starting XI that got us to a World Cup semi-final and a Euros final. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s one of our best centre-backs.”
With 41 caps and having been named in the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament, Maguire is one of the senior figures in the England squad, taking on a leadership role that he has embraced since joining United in the summer of 2019.
Upon his arrival at the club, one of the first requests from our new no.5 was to ask to meet employees across all areas of the club. That meant visiting eight offices in and around Old Trafford, something he repeated when he was named captain in order to understand all aspects of the club.
It was an early sign that from a leadership perspective, Maguire was taking on the importance and responsibility that came with the armband, and he encouraged new team-mates to take the same approach when it came to a holistic view of the club.
“You can take for granted sometimes the effort that goes into helping us play football,” he said at the time. “From logistics to cleaners and the catering staff. They’re all here to help us win football matches, so they’re as much a part of the team as the players. I wanted the players to know them too.”
One of those departments that Maguire has worked closely with is the MU Foundation, and as the charity arm of the club celebrates its 15th anniversary, the captain has continued to do all he can to give his time and raise vital funds for the work within the local communities.
He played a leading role in the club’s Covid response, helping the efforts to get activity packs to frontline workers’ children, and delivering food boxes to the elderly at Christmas in 2020 when the late lockdown U-turn left vulnerable people without festive plans.
Earlier this season he was thrilled to visit the Foundation partner school Brentwood School and Community College, his first post-lockdown Foundation activity.
“When I first joined the club, I realised how much the Foundation does in the community and while I was able to support here and there during the pandemic, the restrictions made it difficult. I’m delighted to be back, and I know all the lads feel this way too, we’ve missed it – coming here to put smiles on kids’ faces, making memories with them and have a little bit of fun ourselves.”
Clearly the club’s commitment to developing the best young players through our Academy is a vital part of our identity, and Harry’s support for those coming through the ranks is conducted publicly and privately, speaking to the young graduates at Carrington and watching matches from the sidelines.
He was in the Old Trafford stands for the Under-18s’ recent Youth Cup semi-final win over Wolves and Head of Academy Nick Cox revealed that he had shared his own experiences of the competition in a pre-match speech to the young squad.
“Harry popped down to the dressing room before the game to speak to the boys,” said Cox after the game. “He approached us yesterday. Harry was watching Youth League games at Leigh Sports Village right in the early rounds at the beginning of the season. He’s got a keen interest, he watches youth team games, this isn’t a gimmick, something he’s done for tonight’s game. This is consistent with his behaviours but obviously, it catches the attention tonight. It was important for the boys to know they had support from across the club and the club captain, so it was nice he could pop in, say a few words, then sit back and watch the game with us in the directors’ box.”
Maguire extended his work with the Academy this year when he became the ambassador for their Mental Health Awareness month, something that is sadly all too important as the growing toxicity around football continues to blight our game.
“Manchester United does fantastic work in this area across the first-team, Academy and in the community,” said Maguire. “I know first-hand what players experience when they are developing and, as club captain, I am always there to support them as they come through the system. It is important that everyone feels comfortable to discuss any problems they may have and that as a society we promote good mental health for all.”
Since the early days of his United career, Maguire has embraced the responsibilities that come from being the captain of this club. He immersed himself in the history of United, reading books and watching documentaries on away trips and in his spare time.
Each year around the Munich anniversary, he has taken a leading role in the club’s commemorations, and urges team-mates to follow his lead.
“Every year when it’s the anniversary, we remember what a huge tragedy it was,” he said this year. “But it’s a tragedy from which the club has built a lot of its tradition and foundations, and it shows its togetherness with the fans when the anniversary comes around. The club, in general, has shown such togetherness over the years, in rising again and showing spirit. Anyone who signs for the club, it’s definitely important that they find out about our history. That’s what the tradition is built on.”
While Harry has understood the responsibility that comes with the captaincy across all these areas, there is no doubt the fundamental and primary objective that comes with the role – leading the team on the pitch and in the changing room, and helping to deliver success on the field.
There are a number of leaders in the United squad, and that collective responsibility is something Maguire discussed at the start of the season.
“I think it goes under the radar a little bit in terms of how important it is not just to have one leader,” he told United Review. “You need numerous leaders and lots of voices in the dressing room and on the pitch as well. It’s not all about just voices, it’s about how you handle yourself around the place, putting people first and being a real team player, and we have numerous players like that. I feel like as a club we’re heading in the right direction in terms of having lots of leaders and a better mentality in the squad to push on to enable us to win trophies, which is what it’s all about.”
It’s bitterly disappointing that the quest for silverware has come up short this season, but the Reds, led by Maguire, won’t stop until success is delivered for the fans.
“You sign for this club to win trophies, and that’s the main reason why you want to play for this club. We know at this club that we demand trophies, and we’ve gone too long without one.”