"We don't want to be challenging for this Champions League spot, we want to be challenging for titles"
Monday 4 May 2020 13:41, UK
Harry Maguire insists Manchester United want to be challenging for Premier League titles, not just Champions League spots.
Maguire, who joined United from Leicester for £80m last summer, was made captain of the club in January after the departure of Ashley Young, and has enjoyed an impressive first season at Old Trafford.
With the Premier League halted due to the coronavirus crisis, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United sit fifth in the table, three points off the top four but 37 points off leaders Liverpool, having finished 32 points off last season's champions Manchester City.
But speaking exclusively to Sky Sports' Gary Neville and Geoff Shreeves for The Football Show, Maguire says the club's ambitions are bigger than a Champions League spot, and he can see the improvement, particularly in defence.
"I think you can see from the start of the season we look a lot more like a team, we can probably see where we want to go, where we want to head. I knew when I first came to Manchester United that Ole said to me loads and loads it's a building process but we'll be where we want to be. I can see where we're heading and the style he wants to implement on the team.
"Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of aspects we need to improve to get to the top of where we want to be. We don't want to be challenging for this Champions League spot, we want to be challenging for titles.
"We know there's still a lot of improvement to get there, but we're on the right track and I'm sure eventually we will get there."
Since a 2-0 defeat by Burnley in January, United have kept nine clean sheets out of 11 games, winning eight and drawing three.
Maguire says the reason for the upturn in defensive form is increased competition with the emergence of younger players and returning injured players, and also their improvement at defending set-pieces.
"One thing we've shored up on is defending set plays. If you look at our record before the run of clean sheets, defending set plays we were up there with one of the worst in the league. If you can't defend set plays and you're not scoring at the other end through them you're not going to stand a chance of reaching where you want to go, it's such a big part of the game now.
"We've gelled together, it's a new back four, Luke [Shaw] has been playing really, really well of late. We've got Aaron [Wan-Bissaka], me and Vic (Victor Lindelof). Eric [Bailly] is coming back and is pushing for a place, which makes everyone up their games, because when he's come in he's done really well.
"We've got a settled back four and we're just learning each other's games really well."
Another improvement has been in central midfield, with January signing Bruno Fernandes slotting in superbly and winning the Player of the Month award in the Premier League for February.
Maguire says the £68m midfielder's influence has been felt off the pitch as well as on it.
"He's been brilliant since he's come in, off the field around the training ground, he's a leader and wants to win, everything he does he wants to win, you can tell he's been brought up with that attitude. He's just given us that little bit more life and creativity in the middle, something you (Neville) and United fans have said we've missed over the years.
"It's a start, there are lots of aspects of his game I'm sure he'll want to improve, and I'm sure he will improve. I'm sure he will get better for this club.
"We've got Paul [Pogba] to come back as well, who I'm sure will probably make himself lift his game even more. We have a lot of competition in that centre midfield now, they know they have to be on their game to keep their spot, so I'm sure we'll see the benefit."
Reflecting on his decision to move to Old Trafford last summer, Maguire admits that while there had been difficult times at stages this season, he feels United are firmly on the right track and recognises they are more than just a football club.
Asked by Neville if he was happy with the decision to move to United, Maguire said: "Yeah, definitely. It's such a big club, an iconic club that as soon as I knew Man United were interested I was champing at the bit to get there. As soon as I came to the club, just the way the club is run, I was so happy at the decision.
"Obviously we had some difficult times at the start of the season where results didn't go our way, and you know when you play for a club like Manchester United that the pressure comes down on you, but we know we're on the right track, we've always felt that we're on the right track.
"Like I said there's so much work to do, I'm not saying that we're there yet, but if we keep improving like we have this season, and I'm sure next season will be better than this season and so on, and we'll build and try and reach our goals.
"It's more than a club, more than a football club, you see the way they've acted during this crisis, how classy they've been throughout, it's more than a football club, it works in the community and in Manchester, and you can see over the crisis, the many things they've done."