How Maguire was forged at Sheffield United as Man United face them
Learning from hardman Chris Morgan, being roughed up in League One… and taking on Paul Pogba way back in 2011! Man United’s £80m man Harry Maguire was made in Sheffield, but he’ll be trying to push his boyhood club closer to the drop tonight
- Manchester United host Sheffield United in the Premier League at Old Trafford
- It brings captain Harry Maguire up against the club where his career began
- Maguire joined the Blades as a schoolboy and worked up to their first team
- He played against Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard in 2011 FA Youth Cup final
- Maguire became a regular in the Blades defence during their time in League One
- Playing week-in, week-out proved to be the best education for England star
Harry Maguire was back on familiar streets just before Christmas, delivering food parcels to pensioners in his home village of Mosborough near Sheffield.
The kind gesture was just one example of how Maguire hasn’t forgotten his roots despite the rapid career trajectory that has seen him become an England international and Manchester United’s captain.
After all, Maguire at his best is the living embodiment of Sheffield steel. Tough, dependable, unyielding.
Harry Maguire delivers food packages to elderly residents of his home village of Mosborough
It all began for the England international at Sheffield United, who head to Old Trafford tonight
Maguire has risen from League One football as a teenager to captaining Manchester United
And the forging of his career took place at Sheffield United, the boyhood club he will regrettably have to push another step closer to Premier League relegation at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Still, the Blades know that some positives can come out of a relegation battle. It was in their ultimately unsuccessful struggle to avoid dropping into League One in the 2010-11 season that Maguire, a strapping 18-year-old who looked at least five years older, made his breakthrough.
Dropping down to the third tier proved to be Maguire’s gateway to regular first-team football. The teenager was thrown in at the deep end against uncompromising, physical forwards who relished roughing up defenders… and thrived.
Maguire had played over 100 times for United before his 20th birthday, League One proving the launchpad that took him into the Premier League with Hull City, on to Leicester City and then challenging for the Premier League title with Man United, as well as 30 England caps.
It was Maguire’s former Leicester and England colleague Jamie Vardy who coined his nickname ‘slabhead’ and also Vardy, another son of Sheffield, who cheekily claimed the defender was a Sheffield Wednesday fan like him.
Jamie Vardy has been winding Maguire up by claiming he supports Sheffield Wednesday
Maguire broke into the Sheffield United first team following their relegation into League One in 2011
In a divided football city where such allegiances are pretty damn important, Maguire had to set the record straight a couple of years back.
‘Jamie always plays around saying that. When I was a young boy, my dad supported Sheffield Wednesday and my mum supported Sheffield United,’ he said.
‘When I was around 10 years old, my dad used to take me to a couple of games [at Hillsborough] but ever since I played for Sheffield United [I’ve supported them] and I played for them when I was 11 years old.
‘I was ball boy week-in, week-out at Bramall Lane from when I was 14 until 16 or 17. Then, I broke in and made my debut.’
That came against promotion-chasing Cardiff City in April 2011, when Maguire was thrown on by Micky Adams just after half-time and asked to mark Craig Bellamy. The Blades lost 2-0 but Maguire was so composed he won man of the match.
The following month, Maguire actually came up against future Man United team-mates Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard when the Blades reached the FA Youth Cup final.
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that 6ft 4in Maguire commanded the back line but the second leg of the final at Old Trafford, which Sheffield United lost 4-1 and 6-3 on aggregate, was memorable.
Maguire was taken off with concussion after a clash of heads with Ravel Morrison. When he fully came round in a Manchester hospital, one of the phone calls he received was from none other than Sir Alex Ferguson, who’d been impressed with his performance and backed him to reach the top of the game.
Harry Maguire beats Paul Pogba (left) to the ball during the 2011 FA Youth Cup final, when the 18-year-old played for Sheffield United against Manchester United
Maguire slides in on United’s Gyliano van Velzen during the second leg at OId Trafford
When he became a regular in League One the next season, Maguire was schooled on the job in the art of defending, with Chris Morgan and Neill Collins two big influences.
Morgan, a veteran of nearly 300 games for the Blades and a club legend, was coming to the end of his career and was troubled by a long-standing cruciate ligament problem, making the transition to coaching at Bramall Lane.
Collins was usually Maguire’s centre-half partner in Danny Wilson’s team and not afraid of putting the young whippersnapper in his place.
‘When I broke in I always played alongside Neill Collins, who was massive for my development and told me when I was doing anything wrong,’ Maguire recalled.
Maguire was a tall, strapping centre-half trying to break into the Blades first team back in 2011
Maguire’s commanding presence at the back impressed United boss Sir Alex Ferguson
‘I got an earful every now and then! But he was great. I grew up watching Chris Morgan for United and he ended up on the coaching team when I was breaking through. He had a big influence on my defensive game.’
Collins admitted he had his doubts about the supersized Maguire when first paired with him but they were quickly dispelled.
‘Harry struck me straightaway purely because of his size,’ Collins said in 2017. ‘I couldn’t believe he was going to be a football player as he was just too big.
‘But the first time he came to train with us, because he’d been doing so well, my opinion changed within 10 minutes.
‘You could see he could play; he was very good with the ball at his feet, despite his build. He’s also probably the strongest player I’ve ever played with and that was the same when he was 18.
Blades club legend Chris Morgan was a major influence on Maguire’s career as a young player
Maguire’s record at Sheffield United
Five games (four starts)
23rd in Championship
56 games (56 starts), one goal, five assists
3rd in League One; lost play-off final to Huddersfield Town
53 games (53 starts), five goals
5th in League One; lost play-off semi-final to Yeovil Town
52 games (52 starts), six goals, five assists
7th in League One; reached FA Cup semi-finals
‘His temperament was fantastic. He came in, he listened to all the experienced players, he handled pressure really well, so he struck me as someone with a great chance and then just went on to prove me right every week.’
Rather than being mollycoddled in a Premier League academy, Maguire learned his craft through tough games in League One and he benefited from the Wilson’s patience.
Maguire said this week: ‘There were probably times I was playing and made a couple of mistakes, and some managers may have said: ‘Right, get the young lad out.’
‘But to be fair to Danny Wilson, he played me in every game. I could make a mistake, play a short backpass and lose the game, and I’d play the next game where some other managers would have gone with the experience.
‘That was a massive part of my development and my game. I think I got in the team of the year three years on the spin in League One, so it was a great achievement for myself.’
Indeed he did but there was character-forming disappointment as well.
The Blades lost the 2012 League One play-off final to Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield, losing 8-7 in an epic penalty shoot-out at Wembley that saw Maguire convert his kick before keeper Steve Simonsen missed his in sudden death.
The following season, the Blades were stunned by Yeovil Town in the play-off semi-finals after an end-of-season collapse – they won one of their last eight games – saw them miss out on promotion to Doncaster and Bournemouth.
Maguire impressed for the Blades in League One but they missed out on promotion
The England defender was in the Bramall Lane stands to watch the Sheffield derby in 2018
The 2013-14 campaign saw them miss out on the play-offs but reach the FA Cup semi-final, losing 5-3 to Hull at Wembley.
And it was Hull who won the race to sign him, paying £2.5m in July 2014 after seeing off competition from Wolves. Having again missed out on promotion, the Blades needed the cash.
He left Bramall Lane with 166 senior games under his belt and plenty of formative experiences and was still only 21.
On the same day, Hull also announced the signing of left-back Andy Robertson from Dundee United.
Those two are now battling it out at the top end of the Premier League but Maguire will never forget he was made in Sheffield.
Maguire (right) joined Hull City from Sheffield United on the same day Andrew Robertson, now of Liverpool, signed for the club
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