Harry Maguire: Remembering the Manchester United Captain's First Year as a Professional

Robbie Walls
Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

While he may be the world's most expensive defender - and the current Manchester United captain - let's not forget that just nine years ago Harry Maguire was lining up as a teenager in League One for his hometown club Sheffield United.

The England international has become arguably the country's top central defender, and took on the captaincy at Old Trafford following the departure of Ashley Young in January despite having only been at the club for six months.

This meteoric rise for the affectionately named 'Slabhead' has been remarkable, yet it is testament to his character and his personality that he has not been caught up in the heady heights of Premier League football.

The 2018 World Cup hero began his career with humble beginnings back in 2011 after rising through the Blades' youth ranks, and enjoyed his first taste of a proper full season in senior football during the 2011/12 campaign.

The centre-back defender made his senior debut at the tail end of the 2010/11 season, coming on against Cardiff City early in the second half, before claiming the man of the match prize for his 45 minute shift.

Maguire would make a further four appearances in the Championship that season, but was unable to prevent his side from suffering the agony of relegation to the third tier.

Maguire would go on to make 134 League appearances for the club.
Maguire would go on to make 134 League appearances for the club. / Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

The 18-year-old was as unfazed as ever, and perhaps benefited from his side's drop to a lower level as the opportunity for more game time presented itself.

Like many of his England centre-back colleagues - Tyrone Mings, John Stones and Joe Gomez - Maguire earned his stripes playing regular football at a lower level.

At a time when its all too common for talented players to be trapped in the academy system of Premier League sides - just have a look at any Chelsea player in the last decade - perhaps the greatest success stories have been those who've risen up the ranks rather than having things handed to them on a plate.

Like his former Leicester colleague Jamie Vardy, Maguire has tasted the lower echelons of English football and is perhaps all the better for it.

At the time though, it may nto have felt like that for the teenage defender as his Sheffield United academy side were torn apart by a Ravel Morrison-inspired Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup final - with United winning 6-3 on aggregate.

The best part of a decade later, it's Maguire leading out the current United side at Old Trafford, while Morrison is in a tough spell at the Blades after a career of disappointment.

Despite perhaps looking slightly too big and ungainly for football, the teenager had the aerial ability and strength to cut it with the physical strikers in the third tier, while also displaying the passing prowess that has made him such a high profile name in Premier League football.

As his former teammate Neill Collins explained (via Planet Football):“You could see he could play; he was very good with the ball at his feet, despite his build. He’s also probably the strongest player I’ve ever played with, and that was the same when he was 18.”

Harry Maguire in League One with Sheffield United
Harry Maguire in League One with Sheffield United / Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

As the 2011/12 season commenced, Maguire had cemented his place at the heart of the first-team backline, and would go on to make 56 appearances in all competitions that season, including 44 in League One.

Guided by the supreme faith of manager Danny Wilson - and the defensive experience of the likes of Chris Morgan - Maguire emerged as one of the division's best central defenders.

While he may now be facing down some Europe's fiercest strikers - Sergio Aguero, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Roberto Firmino - it was the likes of Jon Parkin that were lining up against Maguire in his League One days. Arguably more difficult, some might say.

The young defender was up to the challenge, and scored his first goal for the club on the opening day of the 2011/12 season against Oldham Athletic - thundering one in with his head, of course.

While he may not have been getting widespread attention, the centre-back was vital as his side pushed for promotion.

That season ended in heartbreak for Maguire and co as the Blades lost 8-7 on penalties to Huddersfield Town after a 0-0 draw in the League One playoff final, although he did at least score his own spot-kick.

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Despite the unsuccessful end to the campaign, the Englishman scooped personal acclaim, winning Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year at his club for his first full season in senior football.

Not only was he decorated by his own side, but he was also selected in the PFA League One Team of the Year, alongside the likes of Jordan Rhodes and Ben Hamer.

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The defender was no one-season wonder however, and quickly racked up 100 club starts before he'd even left his teenage years.

While it may not have been as breathtaking an introduction into senior football as the likes of Ronaldo, it stood him in good stead for the career he has since had.