Maguire has shown mental resilience upon Man Utd return, says Heskey

By Sports Desk November 14, 2023

Harry Maguire has demonstrated his mental strength upon his return to Manchester United's team, according to Emile Heskey, who says the defender should be shown greater compassion by the media.

Maguire began 2023-24 out in the cold at Old Trafford, having reportedly turned down a move to West Ham to fight for his place, despite receiving fierce criticism from some quarters.

However, injuries to fellow centre-backs Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane forced Erik ten Hag to recall Maguire, who has started United's last eight games across all competitions.

Though the Red Devils have been inconsistent this season, with Ten Hag coming under pressure following a 3-0 rout at the hands of neighbours Manchester City and a chaotic 4-3 Champions League defeat at Copenhagen, Maguire has earned praise for his displays. 

Maguire has helped United earn back-to-back shutout wins over Fulham and Luton Town, and Heskey is pleased to see the 30-year-old respond to the criticism he has received. 

"He's got to be mentally strong, and I think this is one of the things where we forget that they are human," Heskey told Stats Perform. "We batter them and think they should just accept that. 

"We forget that players are mentally very, very strong to deal with those sorts of scenarios. But they still need help because we don't know how they're coping away from here. 

"I can talk to you here and say all the right things, but away from here, you don't know whether I'm crying. You don't know whether I'm pulling my hair out because it's not going right. 

"It's great that now he's showing his full strength of character, being back in the team."

Maguire's lack of playing time at club level has led to criticism of Gareth Southgate's decision to select him in England teams, and he was repeatedly booed by the Three Lions' fans last year.

Heskey recalled his experience of receiving harsh treatment from the press towards the end of his own international career as he called for the media to act in a more considerate manner.

"You've got to have thick skin. I got a lot of it, a hell of a lot of it," Heskey recalled. "I remember coming back from the wilderness in 2007 or 2008. I hadn't played for four years. 

"Coming back, everyone was like; 'Oh, no, not him again'. Now, that's fine, if that's your opinion, but now you're telling everyone else to have that opinion. 

"By putting that in the news, putting that on the back of a newspaper, you're telling them to have that opinion. 

"I was in a great place and it didn't really bother me. But going back years, it might have bothered me because I was younger. 

"At that time, I think I was 28 or something like that. I'd played 11 years of football so it really didn't bother me then. But you've got to sell papers, I get you. You've got to build your profile within social media. 

"Don't forget that it is a human being that you're talking about, and he's got kids, he's got family, he's got friends, he's got all these different people that can be affected by that. 

"I wasn't. I don't know if Harry Maguire is affected by it. He's not showing that he's affected by it. So that's a good thing, but he could be."

Your #ThreeLions for their final camp of 2023!

— England (@England) November 9, 2023

Reflecting on the way he saw off-pitch issues impact players' performances, Heskey added: "I remember one coach talking to me about a player and it was to do with his performances. 

"He couldn't go to the manager, so he went to the coach and he sat down with the player. He opened up, he'd got a newborn baby and he hadn't slept for like two weeks. 

"So they gave him a week off, he came back and he was fine. People don't know what's going on in people's lives, beyond actually being on the football pitch or being at work."

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