Harry Maguire says Erik ten Hag has brought “energy” and “positive vibes” to Manchester United and insists retaining the captaincy has given him “a lot of confidence”.
Ten Hag has enjoyed an impressive start to his new job since replacing interim coach Ralf Rangnick at the end of last season, with United’s 4-0 thrashing of Liverpool during pre-season the standout result of his short reign so far.
The Dutchman is preparing for his first competitive test against Brighton in the Premier League on Sunday – live on Sky Sports – and Maguire believes United are in the right shape to hit the ground running.
“It’s been really good, obviously a fresh start after last season,” the United captain told Sky Sports News’ Vicky Gomersall for Super Sunday Matchday.
“Ten Hag has brought a lot of energy, a lot of positive vibes and the lads have bought into it really well up to now.
“It was only pre-season but we’re fit and ready to go. We’re looking forward to the season.”
‘Major improvement needed in 2022/23’
Charged with overseeing a big rebuild at Old Trafford, Ten Hag’s meticulous work has been clear during his time at United so far.
During the summer, it was obvious the tenets Ten Hag had been drilling into his players – sharper reaction, surety in transition, confidence on the ball and cohesion without it – had been taken on board.
The 52-year-old will demand a significant improvement on the last campaign – when United recorded their lowest points tally in the Premier League era – and Maguire insists the fans deserve better.
“This club’s all about winning trophies. From where we were last season we’ve got to look at huge improvement,” Maguire said.
“Last year was nowhere near acceptable for this club. We got knocked out of cups early, we didn’t give our fans anything to look forward to.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re in these competitions for large parts of the season and come March time we’re still playing in these major competitions and major games.
“Last season, in the last two or three months, we were playing Saturday, Saturday, Saturday and this club is not used to that and shouldn’t be doing that.
“We were out of every cup and didn’t perform well in the league. We’ve got to look for a major improvement in performances and give our fans something to be excited about.
“You can always find excuses in everyday life and we’ve just got to look at ourselves. As individuals, we didn’t perform well enough and the team ultimately didn’t perform well enough collectively.”
‘Man Utd captaincy a massive honour’
United’s disappointing 2021/22 campaign led to Maguire’s performances being criticised more than most, with some even suggesting he should be stripped of the captaincy.
Maguire has been booed by United and England fans in recent months and according to a new study – conducted by the Alan Turing Institute in association with Ofcom – Cristiano Ronaldo is the only Premier League player to receive more abuse than him on Twitter.
However, Ten Hag has not allowed outside noise to affect his judgement and has shown his support for Maguire, confirming he will keep the armband.
“That’s three managers now I’ve captained the club under, it gives me a lot of confidence and trust in what he sees in me around the place and around the dressing room,” Maguire said.
“To be captain of this club is a huge honour. I know how much media speculation it brings with it and I’m used to it now, I’m big enough to take what comes with it. I’m looking forward to leading the team again this season.
Asked if he ever thought about not wanting the captaincy anymore, he replied: “No, not at all. It’s a massive honour, a huge privilege to play for this club but to be captain and lead the boys out at Old Trafford is an amazing feeling.
“I’ve had so many ups and down in my career. I’m at a stage where I’m an experienced player now – 29 years old.
“I’ve played a lot of games for my country and in the Premier League. I feel like I can take the criticism and media speculation that comes with it.
“Everyone likes to be spoken about positively and everyone at this club has been in the past so you know that feeling but you also know the feeling of being criticised, and the way you’ve got to respond.
“The first two years at the club we were on a good pathway and improving as a team. Last year was a major setback for myself but also for us as a team and club. We need to make sure we get it moving forward again.”
Maguire: Great to have Martinez | Switching to right no issue
Despite retaining the captaincy, Maguire is having to adapt to a slight position change following the arrival of new signing Lisandro Martinez.
The Argentine, who arrived from Ajax in a deal worth up to £57m last month, predominantly plays as a left-sided centre-back, but Maguire insists switching to the right is no issue.
“It’s great to have him in,” he said. “I’ve played on the left and right throughout my career, I started on the right from a young age and moved over to the left towards the end at Leicester. I don’t really have a preference.
“I know a lot of people do but I’ve played both numerous times and with England. As long as I can help the team and be involved, that’s what I look for.
“It’s great to have him in the building. The more players the better, that’s how I look at it, bring as many as you can in to help us compete for the major trophies.
“That’s what I want for this club, I want it to be successful and win trophies. The more competition, the higher quality player that we have will enable us to do that.”
‘Ronaldo is a magnificent character’
Maguire was also asked about the impact of United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, whose future has become the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks.
Ronaldo has told the club he wants to leave to play Champions League football and featured for just 45 minutes of United’s pre-season in a friendly against Rayo Vallecano last weekend.
Asked what Ronaldo has brought to the side since the five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned to Old Trafford, Maguire said: “Goals. Cristiano is a magnificent player and character to have around.
“I know what it’s like to have so much speculation around myself but he takes the majority of it. Everything he does is scrutinised to a degree.
“That’s what you get when you play for this club, the size of it. On the other hand, when things are good you get a lot of praise, that’s football.”
Ten Hag: Similarities between Man Utd and Ajax
Ahead of his first competitive game in charge, Ten Hag sat down with Sky Sports and discussed his management journey.
After a hugely successful spell with Ajax, where he won six trophies including three Eredivisie titles, the Dutchman is determined to make United competitive again.
“This is next level, but I think there are a lot of similarities,” Ten Hag said. We know what Manchester United stand for and that is trophies.
“At the moment, we are obviously not there but we have to get back there.
“With hard work and togetherness though we can make it happen. We have to do it together and it starts with the belief that we can do it.”
Erik ten Hag’s first Premier League game as Manchester United manager will be against Brighton at Old Trafford, live on Sky Sports, on the opening Super Sunday of the 2022/23 season.
After facing Graham Potter’s Seagulls on Sunday August 7, live on Sky Sports, United travel to Brentford in the second round of fixtures before hosting rivals Liverpool in a blockbuster early-season clash on the weekend of August 20.
United’s trip to the Etihad Stadium for the first Manchester derby of the season on October 1 kicks off a daunting month which sees Ten Hag’s side travel to Everton and Chelsea and host Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham.
The final game before the season pauses for the winter World Cup will be against Fulham on the weekend of November 12/13. United then return to action on Boxing Day at Fulham. 2023 will be ushered in by a home match against promoted Bournemouth. Premier League champions Manchester City are next up at Old Trafford on January 14, the return trip to Anfield on March 4, while United conclude their season at home to Fulham on May 28.
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