Harry Maguire has told Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville that Manchester United need to be winning Premier League titles, saying second isn’t good enough despite the improvement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side has made.
United finished second behind champions Manchester City, building on their third-placed finish last season, and there is the chance to add silverware to their trophy cabinet with the Europa League final against Villarreal on Wednesday after the club finally ended their semi-final disappointments under Solskjaer.
Speaking on The Overlap, Neville’s new YouTube channel, Maguire insists United are improving but they cannot rest on their laurels as they look to close the gap to Man City and go one better next season.
‘Second isn’t good enough’
“I think we are improving,” said Maguire. “From last season to this season we are definitely improving.
“We’ve actually been on a good run ourselves and I think the run Manchester City have been on has just been incredible. You have got to give them credit. They broke away with something like 20-odd games on the bounce.
“We dropped some silly points in silly games,” he added. “We know we can do better in some games and be a bit more ruthless in others, and really have great belief in the bigger games that we can go and win that game.
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“But the main thing is improvement. We’ve got to be winning Premier League titles.
“Second isn’t good enough, and I’m sure the lads all agree on that.”
Maguire: United captaincy a huge honour
“It came really quick. Ashley Young was there at the time and although he was only there for a few months, I learned a lot from the way he handled himself around the place and the demands he put on other players in training. He was really competitive, and he demanded the training to be hard, competitive, and I learned a lot from him. Then he obviously gets his move and he goes to Inter Milan and the gaffer pulled me and just said he sees me as the one that can take it forward.
“It’s such a proud moment for myself to be named Manchester United captain. It’s a huge honour, lots of improvement to be made myself, on the pitch and off the pitch, and as a team as well.
“That’s probably the biggest thing now, I feel it’s more about us as a team than my individual self because if I’m playing well then, I’m helping the team and the main focus is winning trophies.”
‘Time to move on from ESL’
Maguire also had his say on the recent collapse of the proposed European Super League.
Manchester United were among six English clubs who were involved in the breakaway venture last month before widespread condemnation of the proposal led to the clubs backing out and eventually apologising.
“It’s been a tough period,” Maguire reflected. “As a player, we didn’t know much about it. I say didn’t know much; we didn’t know anything about it.
“We play a game, we come off and obviously that’s where we find out so everyone is a bit confused.”
When asked when the players first found out about it, he added: “Yes, I think someone put the TV on. That was the first time we heard about it. It was a shock to us.
“I think surprised was the main one. At the time, we didn’t know the details of it. We just heard that it was going to happen. It was a big surprise and it sounded like it was just done, and that was it.
“I think it has all come to the right decision now and I think we’ve got to move on.”
Maguire on his playing relationship with Luke Shaw
I feel like my relationship with my left-back throughout my career, I’ve always had a good one. I had a good one with Ben Chilwell at Leicester, with Andy Robertson at Hull – I’ve been fortunate to play with some great left backs.
I always say, as a defender, if my centre-back is playing well and the left-back is playing well, it’s almost impossible for me not to be playing well. You come as a partnership so if Luke is doing well, there must be parts of my games that are going well.
Luke’s belief, confidence, he has all the ability in the world and I think the gaffer [Solskjaer] has to take a lot of credit for what he’s done with Luke. He’s made him believe that he should be playing and he can go on to be one of the best left-back around.
‘I’m proud of the players’
Maguire went on to reveal his pride in the way the players handled a tough situation.
“I’m really proud of the players, the way that they’ve handled it. I think it has been hard because we didn’t know what was going on really. So, for us to make a decision on things or to speak about it.
“We actually had a couple of days off when it broke so we couldn’t have the meeting, but we spoke on Zoom, but yes, I think it is really important, the loyalty to the club. We respect the badge, that’s the most important thing for us as players.
“We made sure we all spoke on Zoom and we have a leadership group as well, not just myself. There are a lot of leaders in our dressing room and like I say, it’s time to move on and we, as a group of players, feel like the right thing has been done.”
‘My heart was set on United’
Maguire has become an integral player for Solskjaer’s Manchester United since the club paid a world-record fee for a defender to sign him from Leicester in the summer of 2019.
But things could have been so different for Maguire, and United, had the defender not moved to Old Trafford and joined Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who were also interested in the England defender at the time.
“They were both interested,” he said “I spoke to both Man City and Man Utd, but I must say, and no disrespect to Man City, but I grew up watching a lot more of Manchester United football at Old Trafford, being at one of the biggest clubs in the world, if not the biggest, so I always had my heart set on this club.
Maguire on his departure from Leicester…
“With my age, I felt like I owed Leicester a lot. I spoke to Vichai and he said they’d had a lot of interest from Manchester United when Jose was the manager and he said ‘give me one more year, and I’ll let you go’.
“So I didn’t really push anything and as soon as I heard about the interest from United, it was something that I knew I had my heart set on and I knew I wanted to play for that club.
“But I think the age that I was, maybe 25 years old, I always knew that I had time on my hand and Vichai stuck to his word.”
“I spoke to Pep and the football that they play and what he’s done for the club, I have great respect for Pep and the evolution he has brought to football, but it was Man Utd.
“My heart was set from the amount of interest they showed in me. It gave me great confidence and belief and for them to pursue it for a 12 to 15 month period of time showed how much they believed in me and how much they felt like I would be a big part of the team.”
A big summer for England…
Away from Manchester United, it’s a big summer for England and Maguire will expect to play a key role at Euro 2020 for Gareth Southgate’s side.
The 28-year-old enjoyed somewhat of a breakthrough in England’s last major tournament appearance, helping them reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.
An incredible journey eventually ended in a disappointing last four exit at the hands of Croatia – which Maguire described as the lowest moment of his career to date – but the United defender insists the experience of that run three years ago added to the young talent coming through for England make it an exciting time to be an England fan.
Maguire on World Cup semi-final exit…
“The lowest point of my career, in the way I felt is probably the World Cup semi-final. Although it was such a great journey, I have so much regret about that game.
“My family and friends were in the stand, the atmosphere, but just the game and I’d say that’s the low point in terms of the feeling after the game because I really believed we had enough to reach that final for sure.”
‘Squad is more experienced’
“I feel like the squad is more experienced, we have more leadership in the squad,” Maguire said.
“A lot of players play in big games regularly, Liverpool have won the Champions League and the Man City lads have done really well this season.
“There’s experience of playing in these big games, but international games are decided on big moments. It’s an exciting time to be an England fan, but we’ve still got a lot of improvement to make.”
He added: “The talent of these younger players, it’s brilliant for English football.
“Their technical ability is something you wouldn’t say we have been blessed with over the years, but with the likes of Phil [Foden], Jack Grealish, [James] Maddison, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham, you could go on and name them all.
“You can really see what they bring to training, in possession, you can’t get the ball off them.”
Maguire on playing for England…
“Playing for England means everything. So proud, it’s a big honour. I grew up watching all the England games, I used to put my shirt on and watch with my family, I didn’t miss one. I’ve been to the Euros as a fan and watched it live and seen the passion, the atmosphere and celebrations so it means everything.”
Maguire on working with Southgate…
Maguire was also full of praise for England boss Southgate, who he likened to Manchester United manager Solskjaer.
“Gareth has been brilliant with me – every game I’ve been available for, I’ve started so for him to show that belief, confidence and trust, it’s massive.
“He can be hard. He’s a bit like Ole in terms of that, he knows when to be hard or not be hard, he has Steve Holland too, who can be hard in the changing room at half-time or before games. But Gareth makes the belief and the confidence in the group and the tactical side of it is second to none as well.”