Harry Maguire’s decision to stay at Manchester United for an extra season rather than push for a transfer to West Ham may ultimately be the thing that closes the door on any chance he has of reviving his struggling career.
To say Maguire has endured a torrid time at United in recent years would be a gross understatement.
More often than not, the Englishman has been the symbol of the club’s failures on the pitch, especially during the reigns of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and ex-interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
Maguire was widely seen by the fanbase as the primary reason behind United’s calamitous mistakes at the back that at times cost the team dearly in crucial games.
He became an object of ridicule and social media became awash with memes designed to mock him.
Erik ten Hag’s arrival last summer was largely expected to be the clean slate that Maguire along with a number of his teammates needed.
The likes of Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, just to mention two typical examples, rose to the occasion after the Dutchman’s appointment. They exhibited clear signs of improvement under Ten Hag’s astute leadership and the result is now that both are currently vital cogs in his plans.
Maguire was named in the starting XI for United’s opening clashes against Brighton and Brentford in the 2022/23 campaign but was quickly relegated to a place on the bench as the Red Devils suffered humiliating defeats in both clashes.
The 30-year-old was speedily replaced by Ten Hag who then constantly deployed a centre-back partnership of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez to shore up the backline. The World Cup-winning duo struck a formidable alliance and have never looked back since.
Even worse is that as the campaign progressed, it soon become apparent that Victor Lindelof and even Luke Shaw, who is naturally a left-back by trade, were ahead of Maguire in the pecking order.
It felt that Maguire had become surplus to requirements at United and in order to save his faltering career, an exit away from the 20-time English champions would be the best resolution. Reports also started to circulate that United were open to selling him as the player does not especially feature highly in Ten Hag’s thinking.
This was made glaringly clear when he was stripped of the captaincy and Bruno Fernandes was appointed as his replacement. For many, this was seen as the final blow that would push Maguire to clamour for a departure. Many have speculated that the armband was among the few things left in his life at United that gave him joy and bragging rights.
To the surprise of most supporters, a bevvy of clubs lined up for Maguire’s signature, but none were as strong in their approach as West Ham.
David Moyes made it abundantly clear that the former United skipper was his top defensive target and instructed the Hammers’ hierarchy to do all they could to land him.
Weeks of negotiation followed and after an initial proposal was turned down by United, an agreement was struck for Maguire’s switch to the London Stadium at the £30m mark. All that was left was for the Three Lions international to give the green light.
However, he never showed any willingness to accept a significant wage cut on his current £190,000 – a- week wages to join Moyes’ ranks. The Irons are thought to have presented him with a competitive £120,000 -a- week salary package.
Even worse is that Maguire demanded a £7m upfront payment from United if they were indeed keen on selling him.
Negotiations eventually collapsed as middle ground between all parties was never discovered. Sources close to Maguire told top journalists that he was “happy” to remain at the Theatre of Dreams and fight for a regular starting berth, despite all signs being indicative of the fact that he will still be a bit-part player for the team.
The result of Maguire’s refusal to leave is that United are now being hampered in their ability to swoop in for stars like Benjamin Pavard and Jean-Clair Todibo.
So, what does the £80m man’s disappointing u-turn likely mean both for United and himself going forward?
Effect on Maguire
As mentioned, Maguire’s reluctance to leave for greener pastures seemingly in an effort to earn a little extra money will most likely see him continue in his role as a squad player.
Unless something drastic happens, it’s almost certain that Ten Hag will continue to use him very sparingly.
This will only serve to further stall Maguire’s already stagnating football career and not just at club level alone. He is a regular fixture in Gareth Southgate’s teams but even the England manager himself recently warned in an interview that no-one’s place in the national team is guaranteed.
Southgate explained that like any other player available to him, Maguire needs to be playing and tough decisions will need to be made if his undesirable situation at United persists.
Maguire’s position in England is under threat, with the emergence of younger and hungrier defenders such as Levi Colwill, Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori.
Southgate has in the past always defended Maguire’s place but not even he can justify continuously picking the United star at the expense of others who are performing better.
Maguire’s hesitation to accept being sold could also quickly turn toxic with respect to how he is perceived within the fanbase.
Already, there have been whispers that he is staying put for the money. During pre-season, the 30-year-old was the subject of audible boos from United’s foreign support, who clearly did not take to him.
He risks souring his delicate relationship with the Old Trafford faithful even more.
Maguire can still be of use to someone and West Ham felt like the right fit for him. However, that he has seemingly closed that door may ultimately mean that he has discarded the opportunity to show his true mettle. With it, he has also given a small glimpse into his mentality, that many United fans suspected is not up to the standard required to play for the three-time Champions League winners.
Effect on United
For the Red Devils, Maguire sticking around means they are saddled with him and are no longer in an ideal position to bring in an upgrade.
The club needed to sell before buying and that strategyhas now effectively been dealt a bitter blow.
Interest in either Pavard, Todibo, Edmond Tapsoba or anyone else for that matter will have to wait at least one more year to materialise.
In addition to this, United will have to contend with a player who is obviously low on confidence and does not trust himself while in action.
Maguire emits panic to those around him while on the pitch and on more than one occasion, this has seemed to be the team’s undoing.
For the Old Trafford bosses, it’s yet another harsh lesson on the demerits of dishing out outrageously bloated wages to undeserving players who have done little to prove their worth.
Maguire’s case should prove to be a constant reminder.