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Exclusive: Owen Hargreaves ‘proud’ of Harry Maguire and gives England defender advice ahead of 2022 World Cup

Owen Hargreaves says Harry Maguire must block out “nonsense off the pitch” and control his own narrative when representing England at the World Cup.

Despite a season where he has been in and out of the Manchester United side, Maguire could yet start England’s World Cup opener against Iran on Monday.

Maguire could join John Stones and Eric Dier in a back three, with Kyle Walker and Ben White also pushing for a starting spot in Gareth Southgate’s side.

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But with Maguire one of Southgate’s most trusted players, Hargreaves has backed the Manchester United captain to put the negativity behind him and turn it into a positive.

“It’s tough for Harry, he’s had a really tough couple of years,” Hargreaves told Warner Bros. Discovery. “He’s had to hang in there, and I’m telling you, what he’s had to cope with and stuff is not easy.

“All the criticism, negativity, it’s hard not to think about it when you’re playing. I can tell he’s trying not to think about it and just play, he’s just under a different microscope now. I’ve covered pretty much every [United] game, and he’s always the guy that comes out and does the interviews after.

“And a bit like Marcus Rashford, when the team was down, Marcus had to take a lot of the pressure. I think Maguire had to take a lot of that, and it’s been tough for him, I can tell. But he’s hung in there, he’s in the squad, and I’m sure he’s going to want to turn things around. Gareth loves him, which is one of the most important things.

“I’m sure Gareth’s going to play him, and Harry’s produced during the big moments, so this is an opportunity for Harry to turn everything around. Obviously [Manchester United boss Erik] Ten Hag has gone with [Lisandro] Martinez and [Raphael] Varane, and [Victor] Lindelof [at centre-back], but managers like what they like.

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Owen Hargreaves has told Harry Maguire to block out the noise

Image credit: Getty Images

“The only thing he can control is his training, what he puts into it. Don’t read any of the nonsense off the pitch, focus on your craft and turn it around. I’m kind of proud of him for hanging in there, because I’ve been there in that position. I know what it’s like to be criticised, I know what it’s like to be booed, and it’s probably even harder on his family.

“The people closest to him, watching him, because they see the suffering that he has to go through. He’s just got to turn that around and turn a negative into a positive. If he’s the captain of England and they go lift the trophy, then who’s going to be laughing at the end?”

Hargreaves recounted his own experience of being jeered at the 2006 World Cup, although the midfielder went on to become one of England’s standout stars of the tournament.

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The former Bayern Munich and United player, now a BT Sport pundit, said Maguire must learn to block out the noise and change the narrative.

“You’ve just got to block it all out, that noise. At the World Cup 2006, I got criticised for even being in the squad. I came on in the first game, I got booed by England fans. My brother was in the crowd, and he was so angry,” Hargreaves added.

“But in the end, I left home at 16 to play football. That was my dream, I had a lot of moments where everything was against me, but in the end, my effort, my intensity, my work rate, they’re the things that got me to that position.

Owen Hargreaves, Cristiano Ronaldo

Image credit: Getty Images

“Leaving Canada at 16, playing for Bayern as a young kid, playing for a country I wasn’t even born in, I learned to manage the moment. Harry’s got to realise all that other stuff, that no matter what anybody thinks, it doesn’t matter.

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“It’s rubbish. Focus on your craft, block out all the noise, don’t read anything. At the 2006 World Cup I didn’t turn the TV on whatsoever. I didn’t read one paper, I didn’t read anything online, I focused on my craft, I went to training every day, I went to my room, I went back to stretch, I did sit-ups and push-ups and listened to music, I focused on what I could control. And I proved to myself that other people’s opinion, it’s not really that interesting.

“What I put into the game is what’s important. And I can control that narrative. If I play really well. He’s got to realise that he controls the narrative and if he goes and plays really well, that’s a completely different conversation. I’ve been in their shoes; Marcus’ and Harry’s.

“I love when the guys turn it around, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m pulling for both of them that they can play great, because I’ll tell you what, it’s a nice feeling when you come out of there and you’ve changed people’s perception.”

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To celebrate the 2022 World Cup, we have launched our new bracket game, where you can give your predictions, challenge friends and create mini-leagues.

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