Manchester United’s head coach, Erik ten Hag, has urged defender Harry Maguire to step up and battle for his spot on the team after he was relieved of his captaincy duties.
Since the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2020, the 30-year-old English centre-back had been donning the captain’s armband until last week when he revealed he was no longer the team leader. In a subsequent announcement, Bruno Fernandes, a frequent stand-in captain last season, was unveiled as Maguire’s successor.
Despite being dropped down the pecking order behind Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, and even left-back Luke Shaw, Maguire is seen as a critical component in United’s team structure. His demotion from the captaincy sparked rumors of his potential departure from Old Trafford, but Ten Hag dismissed these speculations and instead emphasised the defender’s significance to the squad.
In a statement, Ten Hag addressed the matter, saying, “We value Harry. He’s crucial to this team and the entire squad.” He went on to mention the fierce competition for the centre-back position and how that breeds consistency, adding, “I’m pleased that we have four talented centre-backs.
“We need all of them, and he [Maguire] needs to battle for his place, just like he did last year. He possesses great potential, and I have faith that he will rise to the occasion.”
The United boss also shared some insights into why Bruno Fernandes was chosen as the new team captain. With a record of 64 goals and 54 assists in 185 games since joining Manchester United in 2020, the Portuguese midfield maestro has proven to be a pivotal figure on the pitch.
According to Ten Hag, a solid team requires a diverse mix of leaders, team players, and specialists. The one wearing the captain’s band should be a guiding force, maintaining the quality of performance and setting an example for the others. He praised Fernandes for his commitment to self-improvement, exceptional game understanding, and social skills, all of which make him a perfect fit for the role. However, Ten Hag was quick to point out that even a leader like Fernandes can’t shoulder the responsibility alone and called for more leaders to help guide the team in the right direction.