RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Maguire turning tide is the story football needed

RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Ridiculed Harry Maguire turning the tide is the uplifting story football needed… in a period where refs are facing weekly abuse and teams under investigation, everyone loves a redemption story

  • Harry Maguire has transformed himself to get back into Man United’s starting XI
  • He looked like he was being pushed out in summer but he has turned it around
  • Nobody’s fooled by the nature of Man United’s performances this season – IAKO 

You might have seen the videos doing the rounds and, if not, they are worth a few minutes of time. There are two of them, captured a year apart, and in their way they serve as a fun chart for the fall and rise of Harry Maguire.

The scene is the Ghanaian parliament and the first clip came to attention almost exactly 12 months ago. If we go back to that day, it was a strange time for Ghanaian politics and a strange time for Maguire. He was going well for England at the World Cup, but at home he had been through one of his rough patches.

It wasn’t his nadir, because we can all have our view on that, and mine would pinpoint the 3-0 loss at Sevilla last April, but November 2022 was ropey for him.

Prior to the international gathering in Qatar, Maguire had been left out of the Manchester United team for their final two fixtures at Aston Villa and Fulham. He didn’t get off the bench in either, just as he wasn’t given so much as a minute by Erik ten Hag against Liverpool, Southampton or Leicester. He was captain and fourth choice. A minister without portfolio and a footballer without a rudder. We know all this. 

That was the cue for Isaac Adango, an opposition MP who would laugh his way through the slapping of two men with one swing. His real target was Ghana’s vice-president Mahamudu Bawumia, whose handling of the economy was a cause of severe concern, but Maguire was a useful punchline by then.

Harry Maguire’s redemption story is exactly what football needs in a time of so much bad news

Mail Sport’s Riath Al-Samarrai heaps praise on the England defender for turning things around

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Going at Buwumia from left field, Adango says: ‘There is a player in the United Kingdom in England called Maguire that is playing for Manchester United. He is a defender. He was seen as the best defender in the world.

‘Manchester United went and bought him. He became the biggest threat at the centre of Manchester United’s defence, tackling his own players and giving assists to opponents. Even when the opponents failed to score, Maguire would score for them.’

Adango and his crowd were cracking up at this stage and on he went: ‘Mr Speaker, you will remember in this country we also have an economic Maguire. Mr Speaker, why did we give this Maguire the chance to be at the centre of our defence?’

We can wrap an earnest point around all of that, and maybe we would on another day, but the episode in Ghana was too surreal, too silly, to go there. It has also ended well, because Adango said sorry this week, which was the second video.

‘Mr Speaker,’ he says. ‘If you remember last year I was very quick to compare my big brother to Harry Maguire. Mr Speaker, I now apologise to Harry Maguire. Today, Harry Maguire has turned a corner. As for our Maguire, he is now roaming at the IMF with cup in hand.’

In these confused footballing times, when Everton have been pummelled into a swamp, when Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea are under investigation, when grassroots referees are running from Stanley knives, when clubs are going bust and when so much of the game’s politics reek, the completion of that little circle was really quite nice and enjoyable. Because is there anything nicer and more enjoyable in sport than a good redemption story?

To my eye, Maguire’s resurrection has been the most uplifting tale of the Premier League season so far. Tottenham’s form under Ange Postecoglou runs it close, because that has been a real handbrake-turn towards joy, but it is also the tale of a collective. Maguire’s situation was bleaker, more isolated, more concentrated and personal.

He was the ant under the magnifying glass of one of the biggest clubs in the game. He was scorched, ridiculed and, if we are honest, which we should be in these discussions, his form was often dire. Again, Sevilla away.

Maguire’s resurrection has been the most uplifting tale of the Premier League season so far

So for him to go from where he was then to where he is now is quite wonderful.

That’s not to say he has been exceptional, or even one of the best defenders in the league. Nor that he should start for England, as he is too loose in the pass and too slow on the turn. Marc Guehi looked better against both Macedonia and Malta. But we need to apply a sense of scale, because preserving his career at United seemed a ludicrous possibility just a few months ago, let alone when Adango had the floor.

We often expect our sportsmen to move mountains, but turning tides is harder and Maguire has done just that. If he starts today against Everton, it will be his ninth in succession in all competitions. The courage involved in that act of retrieval is every bit as relevant as the other forces of incompetence which made his place in Ten Hag’s side a necessity.

So a quick word on his bravery. At one stage, many of us mislabelled it as stupidity – he should have gone to West Ham. Ten Hag didn’t want him, West Ham did, so go. But he didn’t and retrospectively we were told by a few around the deal that it was never as close to happening as it seemed. 

Except it was – I was told this week that he spoke to David Moyes three times. A statement announcing his transfer had been drafted. Then he chose the masochism of a lost cause.

In games against Luton, Fulham, Copenhagen at home and Sheffield United he went some way towards vindication. He was among the best players on the field. It’s not a body of work worthy of a bus parade, but it is already heaven and earth removed from a crisis meeting of the Ghanaian parliament.

Perhaps the best thing that happened to Maguire was losing the captaincy. He will always be a rod for the lightning and might be again at Goodison Park, but that demotion put the onus back on him. If there is an irony, he now stands out as United’s leader. Not as a gamechanger, but in the sense of a fighter in a land where the gutless were given too much licence for too long from boardroom to pitch.

He will never be Jaap Stam, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic or Steve Bruce. But to use Maguire as a pejorative term, as a word of ridicule, is false accounting to a man who had the balls to rewrite his story. They’re seeing that now in Ghana. Hopefully the message continues to spread closer to home.

Maguire backed himself and chose not to go to West Ham. Now that call has been rewarded


Sheffield United voted to block proposed new rules banning loans between clubs under the same ownership. 

Maybe they plan to raid the talent of Beerschot, Al Hilal United, Kereala United or Chateauroux in January, but it all seems odd. Then again, their owner is the son of a Saudi prince and Newcastle United are one of the Saudi’s favourite toys.

Remind me, when does that independent regulator arrive?


In private conversations, the golfers of LIV are making no secret of their belief that Jon Rahm will soon be one of them.

The working estimate is that it will require a signing fee in excess of $500million to turn his head and inevitably there will be howls of greed if it does, probably in this very space.

But that’s an increasingly tricky argument to land if the intention is to defend the sanctity of the PGA Tour. Just this week they announced the recipients of their Player Impact Programme, which distributes $100m to its leading players as a popularity bonus. It’s effectively a pacifier to their big names and a closed shop.

To illustrate its grotesqueness, Tiger Woods received $12m for playing six-and-a-half rounds in 2023, second behind Rory McIlroy. The LIV rebels caught plenty of flak for their money-grab, but let’s never pretend the ecosystem they joined is so very different from the one they left.

There is a growing belief among players that Jon Rahm (pictured) will join the LIV breakaway


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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