Harry Maguire vows to keep fighting for Manchester United starting spot

Harry Maguire vowed to keep fighting as the Manchester United captain looks to translate Erik ten Hag’s trust into a starting spot having watched much of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final win from the bench.

After injury denied him the chance to skipper the team in the 2021 Europa League final penalty shoot-out defeat to Villarreal, Bruno Fernandes again captained the side in his stead.

This time, Maguire’s absence was down to selection reasons as Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez’s outstanding partnership has seen the skipper fall down the centre-back pecking order under Ten Hag.

Nobody was surprised to see the 29-year-old named among the substitutes against Newcastle, with the defender brought on two minutes from time to see out a 2-0 win and lift the cup with Fernandes.

“Of course (I was happy to get on the pitch),” Maguire said. “I am a footballer who wants to play games. I also want to contribute to the team.

“I am the club captain and I know I have a big responsibility on and off the pitch, so it was nice to get on the pitch and help the lads out. It was an important win for us.”

Asked if Ten Hag has been open and honest with him about his role this season, Maguire said: “Yeah, definitely.

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Carabao Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium
Harry Maguire (right) replaced Marcus Rashford late on in Manchester United’s Carabao Cup final win over Newcastle (John Walton/PA)

“I think he has been asked numerous times in interviews about my role and things. He tells me honestly, he believes in me but this is football.

“The lads who are playing and starting – Rapha is playing really well and we have seen his ideas, the manager, what he wants and he does like a left-footed centre-back playing.

“So, it’s high competition for places. This is Manchester United. We want to win trophies, and win big trophies, and to do that you need big competition for places.

“The manager speaks to me daily, he really respects me and believes that I am a top centre-half with all the attributes to play in his team.

“But also he understands that the players who are playing – and I understand that the players who are playing – are playing really well.”

Maguire has made 20 appearances in all competitions for United this season, having failed to nail down a regular starting spot after Ten Hag dropped him following defeats in his first two matches.

It is a smaller contribution than the £80million defender would like but he rejected the suggestion that winning the Carabao Cup to that backdrop might lead him to have conflicting feelings.

“No, I don’t have any mixed emotions,” the United captain said. “It’s been so long since the club won a trophy and it’s a really good day for the club and the fans.

“Like I said, I am club captain and my main job is to move this club forward and to bring success back to the club and today has been part of it.

“Obviously, listen, I am a footballer who wants to play games and I want to lead the boys out of the tunnel at the start of the game.

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Carabao Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium
Harry Maguire (centre) is aware of the competition for places in Manchester United’s defence (John Walton/PA)

“But also, like I said, I understand football. This is part and parcel of football when you play at the top level and you have got huge competition for places.

“It’s a real good day for the club and for me and a proud day for all my family who were in the stands and saw me lift my first trophy for Manchester United.”

Maguire hopes there will be more silverware to come this season, with United still in the hunt for the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League.

He says the group’s belief is the “reason why we are moving forward”, while the collective buy in to Ten Hag’s methods and the greater good is also helping.

“The mood is really good,” Maguire said ahead of Wednesday’s FA Cup clash against West Ham. “The lads get on really well, and are a really tight bunch, good spirit, everyone contributing.

“The lads who aren’t playing, myself included, are working hard and pushing those who are playing to perform well and they are. That is what a big club’s about.

“What is being built here is why we are in all four competitions.”