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Premier League Footballer Harry Maguire’s Future Uncertain After a Turbulent 4-Year Run at Manchester United

A month ago, on July 16, 2023, Premier League footballer Harry Maguire announced that Manchester United (MUN) manager Erik ten Hag has decided to end his three-and-a-half-year run as captain of the club.


Harry Maguire is a name even people far beyond the monumental circle of avid football fans might recognize. In the former years of his professional career, this fame could be accredited to his brilliance as a centre-back, evidenced by the speed with which he was appointed captain, just six months after signing onto MUN in 2019, and by how he played every single minute of MUN’s 38 games in the 2019/20 season.


But as mistakes began to accumulate, search suggestions on YouTube along with popular portrayals and perceptions of him began to be populated by unfavourable words like ‘mistake’, ‘funny moments’, ‘own goals’ and ‘meme’.


Maguire became the most expensive defender in history at that point in time after he signed on to MUN for £80 million. However, his inability to maintain his initial standard of play after a spectacular first season eventually turned him into one of the top three recipients of abusive tweets within the Premier League just two years later, during the first half of the 2021-2022 season.


At the height of the abuse in late April of 2022, Maguire received a bomb threat after MUN’s 4-0 defeat to Liverpool. Maguire received an email warning that a series of bombs would be set off at his home unless the footballer agrees to leave the club.


Maguire has stayed quiet through most of the abuse he receives, explaining that as MUN is one of the most loved and hated clubs in the world, “We know we are under the most scrutiny. I totally accept criticism when we concede goals or make mistakes. I’m big enough to accept people getting on my back and saying I can improve.”


However, he has publicly stated that the bomb threat crosses the line as this directly affects his family, which includes his wife Fern Hawkins and their two daughters who are currently 3 and 4 years old.


He adds, “I’m just happy my kids are at an age where they don’t read things and see things on the news. If my kids were an older age, they could see things and go to school and people are speaking about it. That is when it affects you a little bit more.”


The online abuse Maguire receives offers a glimpse into a wider phenomenon of online fan abuse of professional athletes. A study has shown that negative tweets directed at athletes can be classified into three broad themes: 1) generic insults with no particular context, 2) generic insults about sports performance, and 3) specific negative comments about the athlete’s personal life.


The first two types of comments can easily be found under Maguire’s Twitter and Instagram posts. For instance, negative fan reaction to Maguire’s announcement of being stripped of his captaincy included comments like “You sucked at being a captain. Your next step should be leaving the club. Thanks for nothing,” or “You don’t deserve the value that’s been paid for you, and you don’t deserve to play for MUN. You’re simply rubbish.”


The same study also finds that the first type of comment is most commonly used by fans. These comments not only “lead to confusion and rumination in athletes due to a lack of clarity and understanding”, but they also have “greater potential to undermine the self-esteem of players in that it criticises the person, rather than the action.”


Amidst the online abuse are also supportive comments defending Maguire, arguing that “he doesn’t deserve the hate” and “everyone who watched [him] without bias knows what a good player [he is].” Some also praise him for his “terrific mentality” and “maturity” in handling the news and the online abuse he receives.


Some fans hypothesize that the armband was burdening Maguire with too much pressure, hindering him from performing optimally. However, other fans believe that he is either out of his depth or that he doesn't fit MUN’s playing style, urging him to move on to a club that will play more to his strengths.


However, after MUN rejected the loan offer from West Ham in late July, Ten Hag has insisted that '[Maguire] stays an important player. He can fight himself into the team. He has potential and it's up to him to get his position.' Still, the news of the end of Maguire’s captaincy sees a continuation of online and in-person abuse, as a fan attending MUN’s friendly match against Arsenal on July 22, 2023, was caught on video shouting ‘Harry you big M*ng!’ at Maguire, an offensive term used to describe people with Down Syndrome.


The past month also saw an increase in the number of calls for his departure from the club. These calls might finally be met, as Maguire is currently considering a £30 million deal from West Ham.


With regard to Maguire’s current situation, Ten Hag has reiterated that “[Maguire] has to fight for his place and he has the abilities to be a top-class centre-back. He is the best for England and I assume he will be best for us, but he has to prove it.” He adds, “When he is not confident enough to go in and fight, then he has to make a decision. But I am happy with him."

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Tags: #football #manchesterunited #premierleague #onlineabuse #harrymaguire


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