England’s Harry Maguire on dealing with abuse: ‘Beckham and Rooney suffered too. It’s part and parcel’

Harry Maguire warms up before training at St George’s Park this week (Getty Images)
Harry Maguire warms up before training at St George’s Park this week (Getty Images)

If Harry Maguire had listened to the many voices talking about him last year, he would not have been smiling on the Old Trafford pitch on Sunday afternoon as the sun went down, revelling in Manchester United’s pulsating FA Cup win over Liverpool.

Last summer a storm brewed around Maguire, and he was told to leave the club by a number of former Manchester United players including Dwight Yorke, Jaap Stam and Wayne Rooney. There were countless examples of this kind of unsolicited advice in the media at the time, and looking back now, it is much harder to find an expert who encouraged Maguire to stay and fight for his place.

He almost followed the noise, coming very close to joining West Ham. He had been making high-profile mistakes, most notably against Sevilla in the Europa League quarter-final, a tragicomedy performance which drew stinging criticism. Then Erik ten Hag switched the captaincy to Bruno Fernandes in a humiliating blow. Maguire stayed, but started only one of the opening 10 games this season.

He is certainly glad he did. Maguire fought to win back his place in the team, seizing his chance with the help of injuries to teammates Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane along the way. Now he is showing some of his best club form since Ten Hag took charge in the spring of 2022.

Harry Maguire celebrates Manchester United’s thrilling win over Liverpool (Getty Images)
Harry Maguire celebrates Manchester United’s thrilling win over Liverpool (Getty Images)

“I always believed in my ability to perform on a football pitch,” says Maguire, speaking at England’s training camp at St George’s Park, where he remains a key part of Gareth Southgate’s plans ahead of Euro 2024. “I went through a difficult year where a lot of scrutiny came my way. I was Manchester United captain and the team didn’t perform well. When I looked back, I did expect that.”

Maguire’s role in the England team has been consistently questioned over the past 18 months, as has Southgate’s judgement in sticking by the 31-year-old.

“Different clubs have different scrutiny on players and that has a big effect when fans see him picking a squad,” says Maguire. “I could have played for Leicester and had a bad game and then had six good ones, a couple of bad ones, and everyone would think that I’m in amazing form. If I did that for Manchester United, it doesn’t happen like that.

“I think you see it a lot with England careers. You get built up, built up, built up and then you’ve got to maintain that really high level to stay there, otherwise you get shut down pretty quickly.”

He cites David Beckham and Rooney as examples – two greats of United and England who took more than their fair share of criticism and abuse during their careers. In September, Beckham actually phoned Maguire to offer his support after Scotland fans mocked the defender throughout a friendly match at Hampden Park.

“Beckham had a lot [of criticism]… I think even Wayne had a lot of things said and he was one of the greatest players ever to play for his country. He went through times when there was scrutiny on him. But listen, I think it’s part and parcel of football, and part and parcel of playing for such a historic club. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Maguire is a leader in the England squad (Getty Images)
Maguire is a leader in the England squad (Getty Images)

Given the stresses Maguire was under at his lowest ebb, he might well have sought out professional support. Instead he found solace in those close to him, and in the one manager whose trust has been unwavering for seven years now. Maguire will again be a central pin in England’s defence in Germany this summer, in what will be his fourth major tournament under Southgate.

“I have great people, family, friends around me. Gareth has shown great faith in me, trusting me throughout the time, and that’s given me the confidence to make sure I’m ready and available to play and perform. I have great belief in my ability and what I can bring to a team.

“I do believe I am mentally strong. I have overcome a lot. With experience you learn how to deal with things better. Of course, everybody loves it when things are going well, people speaking highly of you. But that just doesn’t happen for a 10- or 15-year period. There will be times when you have setbacks and challenges to overcome. I just see it as a challenge I have overcome.

“I am sure from now until the end of my career there will be another challenge in there.”