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England tried to destroy Beckham, now United fans must stand by Maguire

Hearing Old Trafford back their captain could also be the catalyst for a turning point in what has been a disastrous 10-month spell in his club career,

Arsenal fans unveil a banner in 1998.
Arsenal fans unveil a banner in 1998.
Image: PA

HOW MANCHESTER UNITED fans react to Harry Maguire’s turbulent week will say a lot about whether the same level of protection for one of their own still exists within Old Trafford.

It could also be the catalyst for a turning point in what has been a disastrous 10-month spell in his club career, when the ankle injury he suffered last May, which ruled him out of the Europa League final and meant he missed the first two group games of Euro 2020, began a sharp descent.

Maguire needs to help himself, of course, but a rousing reception at home to Leicester City tomorrow evening might just have the sort of galvanising effect to help him rediscover the commanding form, and confidence, that has deserted him completely since returning from the Euros.

There was a time when a considerable section of England’s support booing a United captain while on international duty at Wembley – as happened in midweek – would result in an emphatic show of defiance once he returned to the surrounds of Old Trafford.

england-v-ivory-coast-international-friendly-wembley-stadium Maguire was booed in action for England this week. Source: PA

So far, the voices of support have been that of his England manager, Gareth Southgate, and teammates from rival clubs – Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Manchester City pair Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling, and Tottenham’s Harry Kane.

Previously, you could guarantee that the 76,000 who will be at Old Trafford tomorrow would be united in throwing their weight behind what has already been a major condemnation of Maguire’s treatment.

These days, the brutal truth is that you cannot be so sure.

Especially as a not inconsiderate number of United fans jeered and sarcastically clapped when Maguire was substituted late in the second leg of their Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid earlier this month.

soccer-fifa-world-cup-2002-england-v-argentina-japan Source: PA

That felt like the first time the toxicity of Twitter and other social media platforms seeped into a stadium where match-going supporters have traditionally remained steadfast in their aversion to turning on their own.

And United fans have not been shy in highlighting their separation from the international state previously.

“United > England” is one banner that routinely did the rounds among the travelling hardcore support, whilst singing about being “world champions twice, once more than England” remains common.

That’s before even touching on their geopolitical goading with chants of “Argentina” whenever those fans in the English heartlands spit their venom.

At the core of this has been that sense of protecting their own and a desire to distance themselves from the elements of the England fanbase which routinely ostracised United players.

The fallout from David Beckham’s red card against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup is perhaps the most acerbic example.

soccer-david-beckham Source: EMPICS Sport

An effigy of the right winger in a noose appeared in one of the country’s national tabloids, the headline “10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy” setting the tone for the abuse which followed the morning after their exit from the competition in France.

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Beckham was embraced by United fans throughout the following 1998/99 season, one which was a roadshow for abuse but culminated in the historic Treble.

This is a very different level, of course, but the same went for Gary and Phil Neville who would often hear the chant “If the Nevilles can play for England so can I” – the latter even having to contend with a fire being started at the gates of his home when his concession of a penalty against Romania at Euro 2000 brought an end to their hopes again.

Wayne Rooney is another who had the comfort of the United support after his sending off against Portugal at the 2006 World Cup, when teammate Cristiano Ronaldo also became a public hate figure for his wink after seeing the red shown.

Maguire’s standing, and place in their affections, might not be on that level, but tomorrow is an opportunity for United fans to rally behind someone who has become a figure of ridicule and vitriol.

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