THE GREAT MAGUIRE DEBATE: Some would crumble but Harry is a selfless leader who can handle this after the England defender has received criticism

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Harry Maguire has received hefty criticism this season, with the defender remaining at Manchester United despite a lack of game time under Erik ten Hag.

His potential move to West Ham fell through earlier in the summer, leaving him behind Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof at Old Trafford.

Despite this, the England defender was called up to Gareth Southgate’s squad to face Ukraine and Scotland this international break.

Unfortunately, Maguire netted an own goal in the friendly at Hampden Park on Tuesday to add to the pressure on him.

Mailsport’s team of ex-pro’s, columnists and writers have weighed in on the great Maguire debate.

Harry Maguire's potential move to West Ham fell through earlier in the summer

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Harry Maguire’s potential move to West Ham fell through earlier in the summer

The England defender has been heavily criticised this season by fans and the media

The England defender has been heavily criticised this season by fans and the media

He scored an own goal as England faced Scotland in a 3-1 win on Tuesday night

He scored an own goal as England faced Scotland in a 3-1 win on Tuesday night

The United Legend: Bryan Robson

It takes a certain strength to face up to criticism in football and, as Gareth Southgate says, Maguire has the balls to handle it.

That’s not a green light for those who target him to crank it up, far from it, but it underlines the mental fortitude he has adopted. When he says ‘at least it takes pressure off my team-mates’, it tells you about the selfless nature of a man who is a leader. 

I know Harry from his time with Manchester United and I’ve sat down for a coffee with him on a couple of occasions. We’ve spoken about the criticism he receives and the spotlight that comes from playing for United and England, particularly if you go through a bad patch. He has never complained. 

He’s not a shouter, he’s a thinker. I can see he is questioning why, and I always remind him the reason he is here is because he is a bloody good centre half.

When I played for United at Anfield, the Liverpool fans could be merciless. They’d sing two or three songs almost on a permanent loop about me and the words certainly aren’t for a family newspaper.

Bryan Robson believes that Maguire is strong enough to deal with the criticism that he's facing

Bryan Robson believes that Maguire is strong enough to deal with the criticism that he’s facing

Maguire also has a close family and a lot of people at United who respect him

Maguire also has a close family and a lot of people at United who respect him

But I just used to pretend they were singing because they liked me and I’d give them a wave and a smile. It’s a lot tougher now for players. 

It only takes a mindless few to say something, then social media amplifies everything. It is hard to escape. 

The crucial thing is that the manager still backs you. I know that may not be the case for Harry at United of late but for England, Gareth has been unswerving in his support and Harry has never let him down.

The pairing with John Stones has been one of the best at international level. Gareth recognises that.

Harry has a good agent alongside him. He also has a close family and a lot of people at United who respect him for how he conducts himself.

He knows he has to be bigger than this. Some would crumble but he won’t. He will come through it and, when he emerges on the other side, he will be infinitely stronger for it.

The ex-pro: Chris Sutton 

Southgate poured petrol on the fire with what he said after Tuesday’s game, suggesting ‘idiots’ are to blame for the ‘joke’ that is Harry Maguire’s situation. Southgate will have to share some of that blame now, though, because he has attracted more attention to the defender. Arsenal fans celebrated when he was brought on against them. Scotland supporters cheered his every pass.

It went wrong for Maguire in both of those matches and he can expect more of the same treatment the next time he plays because, thanks to Southgate, rival fans know they’re getting under skins. They won’t suddenly stop their mock cheers, they will double down.

It would have been more beneficial for England’s manager to say it is part and parcel of being an elite footballer and that Maguire is tough enough to deal with it. I’m sure he is, and I sympathise with Maguire because it is a big ask for a player who is hardly playing for his club to perform for his country. But the criticism will not stop. Certainly not now.

The England supporter: Adam Shergold 

I have no doubt England fans are divided on whether Maguire deserves his place in Gareth Southgate’s team.

On one hand, he rarely lets his country down. He turns up, fronts up and usually does everything expected of him. His leadership extends far beyond the pitch.

On the other, it’s a valid argument that he should be phased out of the side ahead of Euro 2024 if he isn’t playing for Manchester United. But fans rally around ‘one of their own’ when their honour is being insulted and Maguire felt a lot of love from England supporters on Tuesday.

England fans are divided on whether Maguire deserves his place in Gareth Southgate’s team

England fans are divided on whether Maguire deserves his place in Gareth Southgate’s team

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England fans backed Maguire against Scotland, singing his name after Scotland jeers

The Tartan Army believed they could throw him off his stride by ironically cheering him on to the pitch and booing each touch, especially after that unfortunate own goal. England fans responded with cheers and sang this song, for the man known as slabhead: ‘Harry Maguire, Haaaa-rry Maguire, he drinks the vodka, he drinks the Jaeger, his head’s f***ing massive!’

Maguire, to his credit, recovered his composure well and England completed the job to silence the Hampden roar. He looked appreciative when the players went over to the fans at the final whistle and his name was sung again.

It continued a theme. When England played North Macedonia at Old Trafford in June, Maguire received more love from the Stretford End than he had all season.

The affection is real — fans see Maguire as genuine, down to earth and someone who gives his all for the cause. Lack of game time or not, Southgate’s impassioned defence suggests we’ll be singing about him for a while yet.

The centre half: Martin Keown 

Harry Maguire gets unfair criticism. He’s been made a scapegoat.

He was taken out of the Manchester United team and things haven’t exactly got much better since for Erik ten Hag’s side.

Some of us talk about driving buses through the defences of football teams and you could do that right now at United. It’s really the midfield that’s the issue. Maguire isn’t necessarily the problem.

The journalist: Kieran Gill

Harry Maguire shouldn’t be seen as a prisoner at Manchester United. West Ham bid £30million for him in the summer but withdrew the offer as they grew frustrated by his lack of enthusiasm. 

Word is it didn’t even get as far as David Moyes speaking to him. West Ham was a fresh start, with a guarantee of game time, with a great fanbase behind him. 

Instead he will likely spend this season with no promise of playing, with fans who can be quick to criticise. 

He made his own bed by refusing to leave United. Now he has to lie in it.

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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