Manchester United And Former Captain Harry Maguire Need A Clean Break

The 30-year-old was removed as captain over the weekend
13:00, 17 Jul 2023

Harry Maguire has been stripped of the Manchester United captaincy. Despite the best efforts of both the player and his club to make it seem like an amicable mutual decision on social media, the fact is he has been stripped of the armband. But the PR damage control surrounding the decision has been curious to say the least.

Maguire himself released a statement on his social channels, thanking former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for installing him as captain and the fans for their “brilliant support”. With a few rearranged words and the removal of a line about continuing to “give my all every time I wear the shirt”, it could have easily doubled as a farewell address. There is an argument to be made that such a statement should leave Maguire’s drafts in the near future.


The club’s own channels played into the unusual half-farewell. Maguire was lauded with graphics and posts where the wording hewed dangerously close to a sort of thanks-for-everything goodbye. But as it stands, Maguire is a Manchester United player and he is one who occupies an awkward position.

The 30-year-old has had his leadership undermined and his voice in the dressing room consciously quietened. It is likely that the brief to the media will be that Maguire will support whoever the new captain is and that he will remain one of many leaders in the squad. But how can that be when he has been so publicly emasculated? 

There was a time when the appointing of a new captain would be done with little fanfare. Perhaps the team would line up for a preseason friendly with a different man wearing the armband. The manager might be asked post-match about the change and whether it was permanent. But in this content-hungry world, everything is a narrative. Neither Maguire nor United could resist making a fuss. 

Internally there seems to be a belief at Old Trafford that Maguire is one of the club's saleable assets. He was reportedly a proposed makeweight when Ten Hag was weighing up a bid for West Ham United’s Declan Rice, before the player joined Arsenal. Along with Fred, Scott McTominay, Dean Henderson and Anthony Elanga, Maguire is seen as a player with value who can be moved on.


Given their extraneous spending last term, United need to sell to buy this time around. With Mason Mount and Andre Onana coming in, any hopes of securing a new striker hinge on players leaving. United are pursuing Rasmus Hojlund of Atalanta but will be unable to get close to the Serie A club’s €80 million valuation without selling some assets. Maguire remains an asset despite a difficult couple of seasons. West Ham are reportedly still keen. 

It is easy to see why. While he has been supplanted by Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof for his club, Maguire is nowhere near as bad as the memes make out. What he seems to lack is confidence and the pressure cooker that is Old Trafford isn’t helping. United are a club where reputations are made in 90 minutes and one bad game can torpedo a reputation. Maguire has had far more than one poor performance, but that doesn’t make him a bad player. The fact he has been a fixture of the England team during their most successful post-1966 period tells you that.

Former teammate Jonny Evans was another centre back who never quite hit the heights in the red, white and black. Once the Northern Ireland international left the stifling glare of the biggest club in the country, he absolutely thrived. Spells at West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City demonstrated that Evans was every inch a top centre back. So impressive were his displays that Pep Guardiola was reportedly sizing him up for Manchester City at one stage.

If Maguire is brave and willing, a drop down could revive his standing in the game. Nobody is asking him to fall into the Championship. But clubs at the level of West Ham, the upwardly-mobile Aston Villa or even the established but uncertain Tottenham Hotspur would benefit from his presence. There is a very solid centre back inside Maguire. The right environment and manager is needed to bring it out.

A clean break will suit both parties. United need the money and have already begun reducing Maguire’s role. The former Leicester City man made just 16 Premier League appearances last season, his lowest total since making his Hull City debut in the 2014/15 season. Given the quality ahead of him it would take a dramatic upturn in form or a raft of injuries for him to reclaim his place at this stage.

Maguire would be better served rebuilding elsewhere. There are plenty of decent-sized clubs who would cherish his experience and quality. Some may even seek his leadership, meaning a double-quick return to wearing the captain’s armband. On the one hand he’s a player who has often flattered to deceive after moving for a world-record fee for a defender. On the other hand, he is a player who has reached European and international finals, won trophies and played over 500 club games. Maguire is a player of contradictions. That isn’t what United need any more. But plenty of other clubs would look past the bad points to see the undeniably good ones.

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