Harry Maguire got behind a camera to film the Manchester United fans singing his name at a Melbourne hotel on Saturday, and for a few moments at least it must have felt like all was well in his world.
But the truth is that no United player needs to make a fresh start at Old Trafford under new manager Erik ten Hag more than Maguire.
Ten Hag confirmed that United’s £80million centre back will remain as captain when the squad touched down in Bangkok to start their pre-season tour last week.
The fact it was in doubt in the first place says much about a torrid year in Maguire’s life on and off the pitch which he admitted on Saturday was ‘certainly a setback on my career path’.
No Manchester United player needs to make a fresh start this season more than Harry Maguire
The 29-year-old’s suitability to be skipper has even been questioned among his own team-mates amid talk of a clash of personalities with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Maguire suffered a loss of form that also led to him losing his place in the team under interim manager Ralf Rangnick towards the end of United’s worst season in the Premier League era.
Rangnick only fuelled the captaincy debate by saying that senior players should vote on who wears the armband at United.
Maguire was also booed by England fans when he played against Ivory Coast at Wembley in March, and then had to move his partner Fern – whom he married in the south of France last month – and their two children out of their Cheshire home following a bomb threat in April.
There has been talk of a clash of personalities with United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo
Maguire was booed by England fans when he played against Ivory Coast at Wembley in March
‘Listen, last year was disappointing,’ said Maguire at a question and answer session with about 30 fans in Melbourne on Saturday that also featured Anthony Martial, Alex Telles and Tom Heaton.
‘As an individual I didn’t play well, and as team we certainly didn’t play well. But a good career can last 10 to 15 years and you’re never going to have every year where it’s plain sailing and you don’t have any difficulties.
‘You’re going to have to fight, you’re going to have setbacks and last year was certainly a setback for myself on my career path.
‘Everyone – the players, the club – know last year was nowhere near good enough, but it’s a fresh start and we’ve got a big season ahead.
He has retained the United captaincy amid speculation that Erik ten Hag would make a change
Maguire believes ‘little glimpses’ of Ten Hag’s principles are already on show in pre-season
‘It’s behind us now and we look forward to the future and getting this club back to winning trophies, which is what it’s all about.’
Despite Ten Hag’s vote of confidence, the road ahead for Maguire might not be an easy one. The imminent arrival of Lisandro Martinez in a £46m deal from Ajax will only increase the competition for places in central defence.
Maguire’s form is still under the microscope and he was criticised for his part in Melbourne Victory’s goal at the MCG on Friday when United recovered to win 4-1 after he missed the win over Liverpool in Bangkok with a tight hamstring.
But the former Leicester defender believes he and the rest of the United squad will be ready when they kick off the season at home to Brighton in three weeks’ time after a punishing pre-season under Ten Hag.
The squad trained for two-and-a-half hours in Melbourne on Saturday despite playing the night before.
The imminent arrival of Lisandro Martinez from Ajax will only increase competition for places
Maguire admits that United’s gruelling pre-season schedule under Ten Hag has been ‘tough’
‘It’s been tough. The running has been hard but we’re really looking forward to the season,’ added Maguire.
‘Erik and his coaching staff are bringing their ideas, and the first two games you’ve seen little glimpses of the principles.
‘We’re working towards being ready for that first Premier League game, that’s what matters. Everything we’re doing now is building for that first game.’
When United were last in Melbourne, the club had just won the Treble in 1999 under Sir Alex Ferguson. They arrived here this week in rather different circumstances following last season’s sixth-placed finish.
Midfielder Scott McTominay admitted the players shouldn’t escape criticism for the slump, admitting it has ‘touched a nerve’ among the squad.
Scott McTominay says United’s players shouldn’t escape criticism for their slump last season
‘You’re playing for Man United, you’re going to get criticised,’ said McTominay. ‘If you think you’re going to come and play for Man United and you’re not going to get a little bit of criticism here and there, then you’re in the wrong job because that’s just not how it works at this football club.
‘Maybe you need to have a little look in the mirror because that’s just part and parcel of the game. Everyone gets criticised, that’s the world we live in. Social media criticism: you only see how much you want to see. That’s part and parcel of it as well.
‘It’s obviously difficult to speak about that last season. It touched a nerve in terms of when we speak about it again as a group.
‘It’s not nice and that’s got to be the motivation now to put everything back to normal and go for trophies again under the new boss, because I know that this squad is more than capable of doing that.’