The Independent has been told that Gareth Southgate is considering whether to restore the centre-half to the starting line-up, as he is well ahead of schedule in terms of recovering from the high ankle sprain that kept him out of the Europa League final. The medical team around England are similarly confident Maguire can start and he does not feel it is a risk.
“I’m available to the manager for selection,” the 28-year-old said. “I’ve done a few sessions now and feel like my fitness is there. Obviously the injury was a setback club-football-wise. Internationally, I wanted to come into this with a lot of games under my belt with full fitness, but I feel good. I don’t feel like there is any risk.
Asked if he ever felt his Euros were under threat, Maguire said: “I’m pretty sure if you spoke to Gareth, he must have been willing to make the selection. But I always told him I felt I would always have a part to play in the camp, whether it’s on the pitch or off the pitch. For sure, I always felt within myself that I would be fit at some part of the group stage. I didn’t know when. We are going well, we are on the right path. Every day I get more confidence and it gets stronger.”
Maguire picked up his sprain in Manchester United’s 3-1 win away to Aston Villa at the start of May. It caused him to miss the Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.
“I knew the extent of the injury as soon as I got injured, I knew it was going to be pretty serious because it didn’t come from impact or contact, I knew it was a twist straight away so there would be some sort of ligament damage in there. Obviously, you fear the worst. I feared missing the Europa League final and then obviously the Euros as well. I managed to make this squad but I wasn’t able to make the Europa League final, but I’m here now and ready to go.”
Normally a player with a consistent fitness record, Maguire admitted that the last month had caused some anxiety. He also said it was very tough to miss that European game with United. His manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was nevertheless fully supportive of Maguire going to the Euros, despite his fitness issues.
“Some days are a little more stressful than others. It’s not all plain sailing. You lose a bit of routine, not playing week in, week out,” he said. “You’re in for a lot longer hours. I didn’t really let the emotion get in control of me - I always stayed positive throughout.
“Missing the Europa League final was disappointing but then I had something else to focus on. After missing the Europa League final, I always felt I was going to play a part in the Euros because of the stage I was at. I’d progressed rally well through the rehab. You have low moments but only like when you lose a game when you are playing. I was low after the Europa League final, not just because of the injury but because we had lost as a team, because as a club we didn’t win a trophy.
“The main priority was the Europa League final. We knew it would be tough to make that game, we gave it as late as possible but the bottom line was I was nowhere near ready to run, turn or twist on it. We had conversations [with United]. I was in every day seeing the physios and the manager, Ole, has been great with me. He wouldn’t hold me back if he thought I was fit for the first, second or third group game. He said ‘go and enjoy it, make sure it’s right obviously’. We have been in constant contact and the club has been brilliant with me.
“[Missing] the United cup final was a lot harder than the Croatia game. I’ve had a great career in terms of injuries, touch wood. It’s part and parcel of football. I was devastated when I got injured and then the worry comes in of what you are going to miss. I always tried my hardest to push for that Europa League final - my first big major final for United. It came too soon. It was tough to watch, more so because we didn’t win the game and we were not celebrating after.
“It was tough to watch the Croatia game but being part of the group, I couldn’t have been happier to get the victory. I was a fan that day in the stands, listening to the national anthem, listening to the crowd back in the stadium, it gave me goosebumps. I am a player and I want to do well for this country but I’m a huge fan.”
Maguire meanwhile joked that he is pleased crowds are back, because his voice can no longer be heard throughout games. Throughout lockdown, the centre-half provided the most notable soundtrack to United matches.
“I’m happy fans are back in the stadium, so you can’t hear a lot of my arguments with the players. My brother will text me after, ‘you have an argument with [Marcus] Rashford that game, you have an argument with someone else’.
“It’s demands probably I put on myself, but I put on other players as well, I demand a lot from players, I demand a lot from for example Luke [Shaw], I drive him forward all the time, I want the best from him, and you’ve seen this year how important he’s been at club level, and how much he’s improved. That’s one big part of the England team, we’ve got a lot of loud players, and I think that’s only a good thing really. We’ve got Conor [Cody], Tyrone [Mings], Jordan [Henderson], H [Harry Kane] as well, numerous players I could go through. I think that’s a really big thing.
“Without the fans as well, now we’ve got fans people probably can’t hear you as much, and yeah, it’s probably something I’ve developed over my career, the experience, me talking hopefully tells others but also keeps me focused and concentrated.”
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