Why Brendan Rodgers is wrong to blame Manchester United fans for Harry Maguire abuse

Defender has been backed by majority of supporters at Old Trafford but needs to be playing regularly again

Harry Maguire applauds the fans after Manchester United's Premier League defeat at Arsenal on September 3, 2023. PA
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Brendan Rodgers believes Manchester United fans are responsible for the current denigration of England defender Harry Maguire.

“I know Harry well having worked with him and I find it a real shame if I'm honest,” said the Celtic manager. “He’s a good guy but he’s obviously a top-class player and the focus and noise that's been around him, sadly, has probably been created more by his own club’s supporters, and that’s spilt out to other supporters.”

Rodgers knows his football tactics, but he’s not expert on football fan culture. If he came to a Manchester United game, he’d see that in the real world the fans are supportive of Maguire. That was always the case and will be when Maguire wears red again.

There have been the odd moments when United fans have booed him, usually in pre-season games such as in Melbourne last July and Dublin this. Even then, the jeers were outnumbered by the cheers. That’s not what goes viral though is it?

That’s not to say that every fan inside Old Trafford loves Maguire (or any player), nor even thinks he has a future at the club, but that’s the reality and that’s all that should matter to the player.

Online is a different scenario, a cesspit of abuse. Maguire isn’t alone in that, though he gets more abuse than almost any other player.

Wearing a Manchester United shirt means you are always in the spotlight, subject to constant scrutiny and abuse far greater than that meted out to other clubs.

I interviewed one professional this week who has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world and is still doing well. He told me he had not updated his Instagram for three years and doesn’t have a Twitter account.

“What’s the point?” he asked. “To be abused?” And that’s a popular and well-respected name.

Let’s look at Maguire and why some Man United fans may have an issue. After two encouraging seasons following his record transfer from Leicester City when he became so important to the team that fans were disappointed that he would not play in the 2021 Europa League final due to injury, his stock has dropped and he has lost the United captaincy.

He’s become a scapegoat, a comedic meme favourite from online haters to real world Ghanian Members of Parliament. Plenty of have done well out of Maguire’s misfortune.

Maguire is mentally strong. He’s had to be to reach this level. His family, who are seeing all the online abuse, have a different take and his mother reacted on Instagram this week after another outpouring of abuse.

Some fans think he should have left to play football, not hang around to pick up his huge wages. It’s not an unreasonable opinion, but let’s not overlook some facts.

West Ham offered £30 million for Maguire in August, a decent fee for a 30-year-old. West Ham wanted a quick answer. Maguire would have gone if United did not want to keep him, but the club did not give him permission to speak to West Ham until they’d found a replacement. United looked at Benjamin Pavard. It didn’t happen.

England's Harry Maguire scores an own goal in the friendly match against Scotland at Hampden Park on September 12, 2023. Reuters

West Ham then looked for alternatives themselves. With days left in the window, United gave Maguire permission to talk, yet West Ham had signed Greek international Konstantinos Mavropanos on 22nd August for €25 million – the Maguire money. The £30 million offer was no longer there. At no point did Maguire speak to West Ham manager David Moyes.

West Ham had also agreed a fee of £30 million for Scott McTominay. Again, United were unsure whether to sell. That’s the prerogative of the manager. West Ham instead signed James Ward-Prowse and did not sell Lucas Paqueta.

Maguire would have considered going on loan to West Ham, but Erik ten Hag wanted to keep him. Galatasaray, Besiktas, Everton, Fulham were all interested in taking Maguire on loan. United didn’t give permission to talk. Did United really want to sell him? He’s well regarded at the club, never a problem in the dressing room. What’s he supposed to do?

As it transpired, injuries to Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw meant that Maguire featured, with away fans ready to mock as Arsenal fans did the recent game.

In the previous away game, Martinez deflected Ben Davies’ shot past goalkeeper Andre Onana. Against Arsenal, Jonny Evans deflected Declan Rice’s shot past Onana. If any of those was Maguire we’d be reading essays about it. As we did when Maguire scored an own goal for England against Scotland this week.

Maguire can’t get the break he needs and there’s two ways he gets out of his position: he either leaves United and plays regularly, which is what he needs; or he plays for United again and he plays well. Not well in a home win against a side United were expected to beat, but in a tough game or three.

And when he does, he’ll be supported by the United fans inside the stadium.

Updated: September 15, 2023, 12:16 PM