THE IRONIC thing is that the booing of Harry Maguire by England fans might just work in his favour when he returns to Manchester United.
You see Red Devils fans have a habit of supporting their own when “outsiders” have a go at them.
Man Utd skipper Harry Maguire was booed while playing for EnglandCredit: Rex
Remember when David Beckham was public enemy No 1 after France 98, he was never more popular back at Old Trafford.
Likewise when England fans turned on many of their players in the 90s when in that instance club allegiances encroached on international crowds.
So it will be interesting to see if that big arm of support gets around the shoulders of the United captain when they take on Leicester City at the weekend.
It really is time to give him a break.
The player himself will no doubt accept he is not in his best run of form.
But to rewrite the history of his time at the club based on these last six months and write off his future too is unfair.
In the Premier League in 2018-19 the season before he arrived, the club conceded 54 goals.
Last season 2020-21 it went up to 44 as United had the fifth best defensive record in the league, but let’s remember six of those came in a game against Spurs early on after the team had no pre-season due to international commitments.
As captain Maguire led the team to second place and in finishing runners-up in the Europa League.
Now things have taken a turn for the worse again as they lie sixth with the worst defensive record, level with Aston Villa, in the top nine having let in 40 with still nine games to go.
So the fingers are pointing.
But the pile on Maguire has suffered has been extreme and over the top.
PLAYING THROUGH PAIN
It is little known, and he will not want to tell you this, but Maguire has often playing through the pain barrier this season.
He just doesn’t complain and always makes himself available, when others may take an easier easy route out.
It would have been easy for him also to take a few games out while the bile has been flying and recover properly from the knocks, pulls and strains that he is subjected to but he doesn’t.
Raphael Varane, with 15 starts to Maguires’s 23, in the league, tends to.
Then let us take some other big names this season.
Edinson Cavani seems to make himself available when he wants.
Recently he even asked for an extra couple of days off to stay in Uruguay rather than rush back for the FA Cup game against Middlesbrough.
He should not have been allowed to grace the United shirt after that.
Yet when he came on for his first action in a month, after a groin problem, against Spurs there were roars to the rafters welcoming him back.
Likewise when he came on in vain to try and turn the tide against Atletico Madrid he was hailed as a saviour.
In that same game there were also cheers for Maguire but because he was being brought off in the 80th minute.
It was more than uncomfortable to witness.
Earlier in the game he was getting grief when he was on the ball not least when he was hounded into a corner with no team-mate offering an outlet.
Maybe it is because Maguire is a big Yorkshire lad who played for Sheffield United and Leicester with the nickname “Slabhead”.
Cavani meanwhile is “El Matador” who graced the shirts of Napoli and PSG.
Remember Colombian Radamel Falcao in the 2014-15 season – nickname “El Tigre”, always got a great reception, he was rubbish for United, four goals in 29 appearances.
Now let’s hark back to just a few weeks ago and can you imagine if Maguire had flitted of to Portugal like Cristiano Ronaldo did having been dropped for the derby, subsequently ruling himself out the squad with a hip injury.
Ronaldo just got away with that.
No histrionics from Maguire when he was left out against Watford.
Look elsewhere amongst the big names and has Bruno Fernandes really been up to it this season as he rails at anyone and everyone around him?
Marcus Rashford is struggling too and he doesn’t deserve some of the stuff that is starting to come his way either when it is clear he needs help to get back to his best.
As for record buy Paul Pogba, he has clearly struggled in his six seasons, but he gets away with it because apparently it is all down to the various managers not using him correctly.
This is not to advocate fans ire going elsewhere, but to give a bit of context to Maguire’s recent problems.
The problem in Maguire’s case is that wearing the armband brings with it greater scrutiny and conversely more criticism if things go wrong.
That big price tag of £80 million compared to the £75million Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk a season earlier also has fans comparing the two and what they have subsequently achieved.
Now Maguire’s own goal against Tottenham in the Red Devils last league game did not help his cause. Although without his intervention Cristian Romero behind him would have been on to it.
But here are some stats from that game that might interest a few.
He completed 10 out of 11 long passes, nobody better than that on the pitch.
Four of those were entries into the final third, two creating shots.
He had more interceptions and clearances than anyone else and won three out of three aerial duels.
Gareth Southgate has been called out for including Maguire in the England squad, but he has been very, very good for England. Has everyone forgotten last summer and how well he played as the Three Lions got to the final of the Euros.
Which made Tuesday night all the more bizarre.
It is United that United fans care about.
They can be among the very best supporters in the game when players are having a tough time.
Right now Maguire needs them with him, not against and Tuesday night might just ensure that.
Maguire, 28, needs the support of Manchester United fansCredit: EPA
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