Harry Maguire interview: Inside Erik ten Hag's Man Utd revolution - "He wants us to attack from the back and defend from the front"

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire takes BT Sport inside Erik ten Hag's first two months as head coach of the 13-time Premier League winners

By Callum Davis Published: 6 August 2022 - 1.54pm
Erik ten Hag and Harry Maguire Manchester United

Three years after becoming the most expensive defender of all time, Harry Maguire finds himself at a crucial juncture in his career. 

With a winter World Cup in Qatar on the horizon, the 29-year-old is looking to bounce back from a disappointing campaign at club level.

Rumours of dressing-room rifts and managerial departures plagued a season that ultimately ended in failure as Manchester United missed out on qualification for the Champions League.

Out went Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and Ralf Ragnick, in comes former Ajax supremo, Erik ten Hag.

Now on the eve of his fourth season at the club, Maguire is preparing to play under his fourth different head coach with big ambitions for club and country.

As United begin a new era at home to Brighton and Hove Albion, BT Sport sat down with club captain Maguire to get the inside track on the early stages of Ten Hag's reign. 

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Q: I believe congratulations are in order, Harry. It’s three years since you signed for Manchester United. Did they sort you out a cake to celebrate?

HM: [Laughs] No cake yet! Time flies though, doesn't it?

It’s been a privilege to play for this club for that amount of time and I’m looking forward to many more seasons.

Q: Let's talk about Erik ten Hag. He arrived with a big reputation, but he’s relatively unknown in this country. As players, do you Google him, just to get up to speed with how he operates?

HM: I must say I didn’t do any Googling but I’ve seen his teams play, I’ve seen Ajax play and I had heard lots about him.

I’ve had five weeks pre-season to get up to speed, so we’ve had a lot of time to work together and I totally understand the way that he wants to play and the demands he has for us.

He’s brought a lot of positive energy into the place.

Erik ten Hag Old Trafford
Erik ten Hag will take charge of his first Premier League game on Sunday against Brighton

Q: You mention pre-season, he has a reputation for being incredibly demanding. How has he got you up to speed with his philosophy and how he wants you to play?

Yes the demands that he puts on you are high, but that was something that we needed.

As a coach he’s really structured and organised. I’m not just talking on the field but off the field as well, he doesn't stop working.

All the boys have really enjoyed pre-season and we feel ready physically.

Of course, we need major improvement on what we showed last season.

We’re not going to be anywhere near the finished article in terms of where the manager wants [us to be], and I’m sure he sees so much more improvement that needs to be made with the team and with us [as] individuals, so we’re looking to seeing where the season goes.

Q: Has training been more physically demanding than previous seasons?

There’s been a lot of tough, long, detailed sessions so we’re working hard.

I think pre-season’s really important to make sure you’re physically ready and mentally ready as well, and obviously with the new manager we need to make sure that we’re tactically ready and we bring his philosophy to the games.

Of course it’s not going to be perfect straightaway - it’s going to take time - but we need to make sure that every game we play we’re bringing more to the table as individuals and we’re improving as a team as each game goes by.

Q: As club captain, take us inside your early exchanges with Ten Hag. What have your initial conversations been? Does he have specific demands about what he expects from you as a leader?

I’ve had conversations with him. I’m obviously not going to go too much into the detail of the conversations - but we talk a lot about his demands and expectations.

I demand a lot from my teammates and he demands just as much from us as individuals, as a team, [in] the way we act around the place, around the training ground, just in everyday life.

I think the expectations he's laid out for us is something that we needed.

We really needed to be pushed as a team and that's something he has looked to do.

Steve McClaren Old Trafford
Steve McClaren returns as United number two, 20 years on from working under Sir Alex Ferguson

Q: Ten Hag is renowned for wanting his defenders to play out from the back, an area you're particulary strong in. Are you looking forward to playing under him in that respect and has he asked you to work on other aspects of your game?

I can’t wait to play under him.

I think over the last five weeks you’ve seen how he is if you watched the pre-season games in terms of what he wants us to do, what he wants us to bring.

He wants us to attack from the back and defend from the front and hopefully you'll see that as the season goes on.

We’re by no means the finished article yet and he’s going to bring so much more, and we’re going to have to bring so much more to win and to the team, but individually, the main thing is demands.

Of course he wants me to improve in a lot of areas as he does every player in the team and he’s going to push us to our limits.

Q: Ten Hag was keen to bring Sir Alex Ferguson's former number two Steve McClaren with him. How important helpful has it been to have him around given his time in Dutch football and knowledge of United as a club?

Steve’s been brilliant.

His football knowledge and Premier League experience is second to none.

He acts as the bridge between the players and the manager because he's so easy to talk to.

He has a philosophy that he follows with the manager and he sets high demands on us as well, so it’s great to have Steve around the place.

He’s had a big impact on us so far in pre-season.

Erik takes a lot of the sessions but Steve has a large input in a lot of them as well, as does Mitchell [van der Gaag, another assistant coach] as well.

We're fortunate to have three top, top coaches and I'm really looking forward to working under them.

Harry Maguire's Manchester United take on Southampton later this month - live on BT Sport. Click here for a full schedule of televised Premier League game