Harry Maguire will miss Sunday’s Manchester derby because of injury but has been backed by Erik ten Hag to turn around his difficult season.
The centre-back, who has not started for Manchester United in the Premier League since the 4-0 defeat at Brentford on 13 August, picked up a knock during the international break. He played all of England’s defeat by Italy last Friday and Monday’s draw against Germany, when he gave away a penalty and lost possession before the visitors’ second goal.
That led to renewed talk about Gareth Southgate’s loyalty to the 29-year-old, who has been out of form and favour at United. But Ten Hag, like the England manager, retains faith in Maguire and is certain he will improve.
“First of all, of course I have to coach him, I have to back him,” United’s manager said. “But I back him because I believe in him. The period I worked with him in pre-season was good, I think I would say really good – training and games. Then he fell out [of the starting lineup] but it’s also to do with the good performance of the centre-backs who are playing now.
“But I can see the qualities. Even after he wasn’t in the team, he trained really well but more important the quality was really there. You see his career, almost 50 caps for England. With Leicester and Man United, he’s performing really well so what you see is he has a high potential.
“Then it’s about him. The players in the dressing room, the coaches, the manager – we all believe in him. Now it is about him. That is what I told him. I’m sure he can do it. He will turn around this. I am really convinced of that.”
Ten Hag, asked about the potential mental health affects on widely criticised players such as Maguire, said: “It’s an aspect of top football, it’s an aspect of our work. We set conditions for that as manager. We also have experts around to help, to coach the players, the team in the right direction.”
United face City in their first league match since beating Arsenal 3-1 on 4 September and with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial back in training. Ten Hag will pit his wits against a man he knows well because Pep Guardiola was manager of Bayern Munich when the Dutchman coached the second team.