Harry Maguire’s Man Utd and England record deserves more respect than nicknames and memes


Maguire gets the criticism he deserves but never the praise he deserves, with his World Cup heroics largely overlooked given his Manchester United struggles

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Wayne Rooney on Harry Maguire’s Man Utd form

Harry Maguire should blame Jamie Vardy, the boredom of life in a World Cup camp in a remote part of Russia, and a nickname straight from the playground.

It is the summer of 2018 and it is Repino, a town of 2,000 people on the Gulf of Finland, so far north that, in late June, darkness only descends for a few minutes a day.

The England football squad and their media entourage are based in the woods.

Spirits are good but those days are long.

For the England players, especially those who are not automatic first eleven choices, distractions are probably welcome.

And the daily press call is a distraction.

In our working base, we have a darts board, pool table, video games, but, most importantly a change of scenery, in the literal and human sense.

On one particular day, Maguire is on official duty but Vardy – a club-mate at that point – tags along for something to do.







Maguire and Vardy at the 2018 World Cup
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Image:

Alex Morton/Getty Images)

He has a knock on the pool table with a couple of the hacks before nudging his way into the interview Maguire is giving to a dozen reporters.

“Harry, it’s Jamie Vardy here from the Vardy Express – how big is the diameter of your head?”

And so it became public knowledge, Vardy kindly going on to explain to the assembly that Maguire’s nickname – or at least one of his nicknames – is Slabhead.

In the grand scheme of things, it is strictly a triviality; very much a triviality.

But along with the photo of him talking to his fiancée after a match, it was one of the things that some people remember about Maguire from World Cup 2018.







A picture that spawned a thousand memes: Harry Maguire and Fern Hawkins, now his fiancée
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Image:

Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Harry the Slabhead: sounds like good old Sunday League knockabout stuff.

How many remember he was one of the outstanding defenders of the tournament in Russia?

“A giant in both boxes throughout the competition,” said Gareth Southgate.

Even though it was less than a year ago, how many remember Maguire was named in the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament?

And that is what Maguire has to deal with.

He gets the criticism he deserves but never gets the praise he deserves.

There is no disguising the fact this has been a rough club season for Maguire.

But then he is not unique in this current Manchester United squad.

And the idea that some players believe Maguire should not be in the team is a bit rich, to say the least.

In fact, only David de Gea would have the right to cast aspersions against somebody else on the Old Trafford playing roster.

Maguire might be struggling right now. He might be getting through an extended dip. He might also, by the way, be suffering from playing behind a bog-standard midfield.

Have Your Say! Is Harry Maguire treated unfairly? Join the debate here.






MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 05: Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on December 5, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Manchester City ’s centre-halves, for example, enjoy the luxury of seeing their midfielders dominate possession.

There are no excuses for some of his mistakes and for some of his sluggishness this season.

But you do not become a mainstay of a national team ranked fifth in the world, and one which has reached the last four and the final of its last two major tournaments, without being a high-quality player.

Ditto for becoming captain of Manchester United.

Maguire might be having a rough patch, but his contribution to his clubs and country over the past few years should demand more long-standing respect.

No matter what the diameter of his head, he should not be a laughing stock.

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