2:10 Manchester United defender Harry Maguire reflects on his formative years at Sheffield United, including a memorable collision with Craig Bellamy on his debut
It is quite some ladder Maguire has been on. Coached by 16 different managers in his eight years as a professional, it was Micky Adams who gave him his first senior appearance at the age of 18 when he made his debut for the Blades against Cardiff in 2011.
Starting the game on the bench, he was named man of the match, and has not looked back.
Maguire reflects: «They were struggling in the Championship I think and I was on the bench for a couple of games. Then all of a sudden, just after half-time, about 50 minutes in, I got the nod to go on.
«Cardiff had Craig Bellamy and Jay Bothroyd up top at the time, which was probably the best attack in the league so coming on was a bit nerve-wracking. I put a good tackle in and the crowd got right behind me and they’ve given me great support ever since then.
«It was a bit of a surprise but I went on and managed to do well and pretty much played for Sheffield United ever since then. It was nice to play under managers who have always shown great faith in me.»
Maguire would never make another Blades appearance as a substitute again as he instantly became an integral member of the side under Adams’ successor Danny Wilson.
0:34 Manchester United defender Harry Maguire says the club’s players need to follow in the footsteps of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
«It shows how much faith people have had in me, especially Danny Wilson at the time when I was a young boy and I look back and I made some big mistakes for big goals.
«But no matter what, he believed that I was good enough to be playing and if I made a mistake, he wouldn’t take me out of the team and put someone more experienced in, he always had great faith and trust in me and I thank him a lot for that.»
«As a young boy, I think the main thing is you can learn on the training pitch and you can learn from coaches because there are some excellent coaches, but when you learn the most is when you cross over that white line and play real football for three points.
«I was really fortunate to play so many games at such a young age where I’ve learnt so much and I had great mentors as well in terms of Chris Morgan and Neil Collins back then, who were great pros and helped me along a lot, especially with my defensive work.
«It’s what I really thank Sheffield United for — the opportunity. But back in the day, it used to be hard for young players to get that chance and when they make one or two mistakes, they probably find themselves sat on the bench but it never happened with me at Sheffield United.
«They showed great faith in me to go and play every game whenever I was fit.»
‘Maguire’s ability on the ball clear at 14’
Among those to have played an important role in Maguire’s development is Travis Binnion, who worked on Sheffield United’s coaching staff for more than a decade as academy manager before taking the same path as the player only this month as Manchester United’s new head of player development coach of the U14 to U16 teams.
Maguire was part of Sheffield United’s FA Youth Cup side that reached the final in 2011, ironically against Manchester United — and Binnion was part of the staff involved in that showpiece.
Having first worked with Maguire when he was a 14-year-old, he told Sky Sports: «Technically, he has always been good. He had an excellent range of passing, always comfortable on the ball and always a big lad for his age. He had a real confidence around himself.
1:22 Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder says Harry Maguire who came through the club’s academy deserves huge credit for the way his career has developed.
«His stature set him apart at that age, but also his ability on the ball. There has been a lot made of him not being the quickest but his ability to read the game stood out from a young age and a lot younger from the other people I spoke to at the club.
«He plays now like he did when he was younger and I’ve seen footage of Harry when I wasn’t a coach at Sheffield United and you could see the same confidence and expression that you see now.
«There’s immense pride that a player who has come through your system and a club that you’ve been at a long time go on and do what he’s done, as Kyle Walker has. It gives you a massive sense of pride.»
Nigel Clough placed an emphasis on developing those ball-playing qualities alongside his natural heading ability during his time in charge at Bramall Lane.
A move to then Premier League club Hull materialised in July 2014, but his impact at the KCOM Stadium was far from instant.
After making his debut in the Europa League qualifying tie away to Belgian side Lokeren, he played just 94 minutes of top-flight football before being sent out on loan to Wigan for the second half of the 2014/15 season.
«It was really tough,» Maguire admitted. «I went from playing every game as a young boy and then went to Hull and it was hard because we were in the Europa League.
«We built a squad for that and the gaffer there, Steve [Bruce] was building a squad and then all of a sudden, we didn’t qualify for [the group stage] so we had this massive squad where I can remember training on a Saturday and on the day of the game, there were eight players training after not making the squad.
«I was a young boy at the time and I always felt like I should have been playing. It was difficult but I went out on loan, got some games in the Championship and that was really important.
«I’d only played six or seven games in the Championship, I’d [mainly] played in League One, so I really wanted to go and test myself at Wigan.
«I always had great belief in my ability and I always felt I should’ve been playing at Hull so I had great confidence going into Wigan.
«It was a great time for me, they had a great set of lads there, Malky [Mackay] was there and then it changed to Gary Caldwell but they were both great with me and I thank the club for that.»
Fast-forward to the present day and Manchester United head to South Yorkshire at the start of a hectic period of 12 games across three competitions in 39 days.
Only West Ham during the 2012/13 season have made a better start to a Premier League season as a newly promoted side than Sheffield United at this stage.
The Blades are fifth in the table — a point and two places above the Red Devils. Only Leicester have conceded fewer than their nine goals this term while no team has kept more clean sheets than their five under manager Chris Wilder.
Continuity has been key. Wilder featured the most-used team in the Championship last season, in a now-familiar 3-5-2 formation, and seven players who helped gain promotion from League One in 2017 have been in matchday squads this season.
The last time the two sides met at Bramall Lane in the Premier League was back in November 2006 as Wayne Rooney scored twice in Manchester United’s 2-1 win. Maguire will afford himself a moment to reflect this weekend on how far he has come.
He added: «I probably would’ve been there. Maybe I might have been a ball boy! I was one for two or three years.
«Sheffield United is such a great club and I’m really happy to see them back in the Premier League, where they belong, and the fans deserve that. I’m really happy to see the way they’ve started.
«It’s going to be an exciting game for myself and my family. Lots of friends are Sheffield United fans so hopefully I’m the one smiling at the end of the game and not them.
«It’s business as usual, we want three points, but it’s going to be an exciting game and one I’m really looking forward to.»
Watch Sheffield United vs Manchester United live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event on Super Sunday from 4pm; kick-off is at 4.30pm.