Harry Maguire frames it otherwise and it’s rather other. His England teammates, when puzzled in Qatar, have most commonly stated they are able to win the World Cup. This is the target. They have now not shied clear of announcing so. For Maguire, although, it is going past that. It isn’t just a goal. As he prepares for Saturday night time’s quarter-final in opposition to France, it’s a duty.
“That’s the one thing I’d say is a lot different from the 2018 squad,” Maguire says. “I played when we got to the semi-final and a lot of the lads were happy. You knew that whatever happened in that semi-final [when they lost to Croatia], you’d go home and be classed as a hero; you’d get a good reception, everyone would be patting you on the back. Now there’s a belief that we’ve got to win this tournament.
“Of course we know how tough it is going to be. There are probably five or six teams with the same belief. But in 2018 we probably weren’t one of those teams. Now there’s five or six who have that belief and we’re one of them.”
When considering Maguire or talking to him, it is impossible not to fixate on his mentality. Or, to put it another way, wonder how he copes with it all because, over the past year and a bit, Maguire has become a virtual by-word for calamity. That has to do something to a player, even one as long in the tooth as him.
It was a horrible season for him last time out. Manchester United were surely the worst version of themselves since the late 1980s and Maguire was a big part of that, making grisly errors. He looked leaden-footed, his confidence on the floor. But as the captain, he almost became the face of the listing ship.
Maguire’s substitution against Atlético Madrid in the Champions League was cheered by a section of the Old Trafford crowd. For England, meanwhile, he was jeered at Wembley during the friendly against the Ivory Coast. Sticks and stones, perhaps. But then came the bomb threat to his family home, which was beyond the pale.
This season the abuse hasn’t been as bad and maybe it is because he hasn’t been seen as often. Dropped after the first two games by the new United manager, Erik ten Hag, Maguire has started only three times since – all at Old Trafford; Real Sociedad (Europa League defeat), West Ham (Premier League win), Aston Villa (Carabao Cup win).
Maguire was in at the outset for England in late September against Italy and Germany – he was poor in the second tie – and after that was unavailable for three weeks or so because of a thigh injury. When he departed for the World Cup, he was United’s fourth-choice centre-half and there were plenty of people who didn’t want him in the lineup when England got underway against Iran. So how does he cope?
“First and foremost, I listen to people around me like my family and friends, my teammates, the staff here,” Maguire says. “I know how valued I am, I feel it within the camp. That gives me great belief. I also go back to my past memories and performances at tournaments. In the summer of last year I was in the Euros team of the tournament. I know what I’m capable of.”
It has to be difficult to blot out all of the noise. Maguire cannot live under a rock. Last week he was even ridiculed in the Ghanaian parliament when an MP denigrated the vice-president as the “economic Maguire”, accusing him of being a liability.
“You pick up bits and bobs and maybe my family reads things more than me,” Maguire says. “I tell them to stay off social media – maybe they don’t because it’s a habit for most people these days. But I’m 29 years old, I’m the captain of Man United and I’ve made 52 appearances for my country. I’m doing everything I’ve always wanted to do.
“During a career there’s only probably Lionel Messi and Cristiano [Ronaldo] who’ve not had a dip. There’s no way, especially with all the scrutiny that is on defenses these days, you’re not going to have dips. It’s how you bounce back from them.”
Maguire has had a good World Cup so far, starting all four of England’s ties, although he did have shaky moments during the early stages of the last-16 win against Senegal. He has felt the support of not only Southgate but the traveling fans, making light of his lack of regular football much as he did going into the last Euros; Back then he was out for six weeks with an ankle problem. He has also received a couple of “well done” messages from Ten Hag.
“As a player you want to play and this is the first season I’ve really sat on a bench in a few games,” Maguire says. “But I’ll struggle to get my position again [at United], I did organize to play the 90 mins in opposition to West Ham and Villa after my thigh damage and I felt like I used to be getting into a bit little bit of shape. You wish to play for your rhythm and I’m satisfied I were given the primary few World Cup video games out of the best way. I’m in a rhythm of enjoying now. I’m in a just right position.”
This isn’t a redemption tale. Not but, anyway. The concern continues to lurk that Maguire may well be uncovered in opposition to France, specifically through the tempo of Kylian Mbappé. But simply believe if Maguire may summon a efficiency command in victory. This is his lifestyles – ever at the finish of a precipice. How does he cope? All instructed, lovely remarkably.