Manchester United’s Harry Maguire was in attendance at Old Trafford last week as the club’s U18s welcomed Nottingham Forest in the FA Youth Cup final. Maguire was supporting the academy while others were on holiday.
Maguire was also present for the semi-final of the Youth Cup at Old Trafford and he gave a speech in the dressing room ahead of that match. This season has shown there are just a handful of players at United who genuinely care and Maguire is one of those.
After a nightmare season, some will be reluctant to give Maguire any credit, but the centre-back’s consistent support of the academy is laudable. Maguire acts like a player worthy of captaining Manchester United away from football, it’s just a shame that he doesn’t on the pitch. The defender has looked burdened by the weight of the armband at United and there is an obvious decision to be made.
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Maguire has endured the worst season of his career. His performances of him have not been close to being good enough this term and he’s looked devoid of confidence. Maguire appears broken and shackled by shouldering the responsibility of captaining United.
The centre-back can surely only improve next season. Erik ten Hag will address United’s porous backline in training and Maguire should benefit from playing behind a specialist defensive midfielder. Maguire will also benefit from playing under a tactically competent manager for the first time in his United career. It’s hoped he’ll put this season behind him after a summer break.
It remains to be seen whether Maguire can get his career back on track, but he needs to be given the best chance of doing so and that means stripping him of the captain’s armband. That decision has seemed inevitable all season and Maguire will be aware that it’s coming. The armband brings increased scrutiny and Maguire does n’t need that as he looks to rediscover his form.
Maguire was never an £80million signing, but this season hasn’t been a true reflection of his ability and he should improve without the pressure of the armband. He has insisted he does not pay attention to criticism but his actions contradict his words.
The 29-year-old held his hands to his ears after scoring for England in November in a response to his critics, but he was sent off as United lost 4-1 in the match just after the international break. It’s highly likely that Maguire now regrets that celebration.
However, there is a problem with removing the captaincy from Maguire: there are no players currently at the club worthy of taking on the responsibility. United’s dressing room has been labeled a ‘disaster’ and that’s probably being kind.
Bruno Fernandes is vice-captain and he might seem likely the natural successor, but he’s not the kind of player that should captain United. Although Fernandes is a talismanic force and he’s been sensational since joining the club, he’s often found rolling on the floor and complaining about stupid matters instead of getting on with the job at hand. Fernandes’ petulance is embarrassing.
Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea might be the other contenders for the armband, but Ronaldo will turn 38 next season and Ten Hag might prefer another goalkeeper to De Gea. While the Spaniard has been United’s standout performer in a bleak campaign, there are doubts about his distribution of him. De Gea is a world-class shot-stopper in an era that demands more from goalkeepers.
Raphael Varane captained Real Madrid and he might be considered for the role, however, he’s clearly not robust enough and his injury record is concerning. There are no obvious candidates to succeed Maguire as club captain and that probably shouldn’t be a surprise.
United’s players have been spineless this season and there is a serious lack of character in that dressing room. They have failed to play for professional pride and they threw the towel in months ago. Ten Hag needs to oversee a clear-out upon his arrival from him.
The death of appropriate candidates to succeed Maguire doesn’t mean he should remain as club captain. It has been obvious for some time that decision needs to be made, but the decision on who captains United next certainly isn’t as simple.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.