Erik ten Hag fires Harry Maguire warning to Raphael Varane after fine World Cup displays | Football | Sport


Prior to the World Cup, the nuclear option for Harry Maguire, of having to reconstruct his confidence and career away from the pressure of Old Trafford, looked a real possibility. Bereft of form with just four league starts, struggling for fitness, captain in name only and slipping down the pecking order behind a wall of defensive talent, the outlook was bleak.

But when he walks into Carrington early next week after a well-earned break following England’s campaign, he will do so feeling a foot or so taller, confidence seemingly restored and feeling ready for the challenge laid down to him by his club boss.

Erik ten Hag has been in constant contact with Maguire throughout the World Cup and has told the England defender to bring his England A game back from Qatar with him. “I’ve been asked many times if he is good enough to play for me and it is clear he is good enough to play at the highest level,” said the United manager.

“He has, for England, almost all the time good games. Yes he had a period in Manchester where he performed badly and then of course there are difficulties. But when he is confident in himself, he will put that on the pitch. When he is working hard you will get that confidence and you are seeing that with the way he is playing for England.

“We want him to bring that back to Manchester with him so he can bring it on the pitch for Manchester United. I expect from him, the team knows what they expect from him. If he does that he will be a great player for us.” In his characteristically forthright style, Ten Hag admits that Maguire is in a battle to regain his place in the side having slipped behind Raphael Varane in the pecking order on the right side of defence.

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“The only thing Harry has to do is train well, perform well, he has games he has rhythm and his chance will come. He will have a chance to show it and then he’s in and he will play.”

It is unlikely Maguire will shirk that challenge, especially with United busy on four fronts. But should he decline, may the nuclear option resurface? “Only if he doesn’t want to be in these circumstances anymore,” said Ten Hag. “Until that moment, I am happy with him. I have said it to him and you, I can do nothing more. It is up to him to contribute to play himself into the team.”

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