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big chance Harry Maguire putting ‘atrocious’ days behind him as he thrives with England


England's Harry Maguire celebrates after the victory over Germany. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Reuters

England's Harry Maguire celebrates after the victory over Germany. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Reuters

England's Harry Maguire celebrates after the victory over Germany. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Reuters

For Harry Maguire, a career low came last October when Manchester United were thrashed 6-1 at home by Tottenham Hotspur and he was being castigated as “atrocious”.

After that, Maguire was sent off for England in the Nations League tie against Denmark and more questions were asked as to whether he was distracted and should be taken out of the spotlight for his own good as he appeared to struggle in the aftermath of the assault conviction on the Greek island of Mykonos, which he is appealing.

Instead, Maguire played on and at times played through physical pain to display a remarkable mental resilience, which is why Gareth Southgate was always going to leave a place open for him in his squad for the European Championship even when the 28-year-old’s season at United was curtailed after he suffered an upper ankle ligaments sprain in early May.

For most players, that would have ruled them out of the Euros, but Maguire has returned to be such a key defender in England’s campaign as they prepare to face Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Rome. The impact he has made is typical of the “character” shown during the months of adversity.

“I think every player goes through periods of ups and downs in their career,” Maguire said. “That’s where you really show your character to overcome that period and that’s something I’m really proud of within myself.

“When you play for Manchester United, every bad game you have is made into a real bad period of form. I remember the game against Tottenham where we were really bad and conceded six goals.

“All of a sudden, the period of form has turned atrocious for myself and the rest of the lads just through one game, but that’s what happens and that’s what you expect. It’s about how you deal with it, how you bounce back. I think, first and foremost, you work hard off the pitch and you take that on to the pitch and that gives you confidence to go and play well.”

Maguire has certainly done that and was crucial in leading United into second place in the Premier League and into the Europa League final, which they lost to Villarreal.

It was no coincidence that without him United won just one of their final five games, and while Tyrone Mings deputised ably for England, the defence is stronger for Maguire’s return and the leadership he brings.

Prior to the tie against Germany, it was Maguire who was going around the pitch talking to his team-mates, while he set the tone for the contest in winning all eight of his duels in the first half.

His passing and ability to bring the ball out from the back have also made a difference. Victory provided England with a sound launch pad.

“We want to play aggressive, play on the front foot, we don’t want to play with worry or fear,” Maguire explained. “That’s a big thing for us as a group. We want to play fearless and go out there and really express ourselves.

“To do that, we can’t really be worrying (about) the bad scenarios. I think that’s when the leaders would have to stand up and overcome a setback in a game which we have all experienced at club level and international level.”

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]