As Manchester United enter the final months of the season and battle with injuries, there’s one area of the pitch they’ve been hit the hardest. With both Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane potentially out for the run-in, the club may have to revert to Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

One, a defender who is much further away from Viking than the miles on his birth certificate suggest, and the other… well, what is Harry Maguire?

Captain of Manchester United Football Club and yet seemingly, concurrently, a victim of the behemoth he’s found himself consumed by. It is difficult to recall a full-time captain of the club who had so little connection with it, and who, despite now being in place since 2019, doesn’t exude Unitedness.

Flashback to his Mykonos adventure, and his subsequent Princess Diana style interview with the BBC. He was backed by Manchester United fans who trawled through the evidence and presented his case as if they were arguing a football decision. Harry had protected his family, they said, like any real-hard footballer would, that’s what you’d want from your six-foot-four central defender. 

That incident in itself could have set him on the road to cult hero status. Chants about him battering strikers and half of Mykonos could have been his future with the stands. 

And yet, nothing.

Playing poorly obviously didn’t help, but the lack of connection with fans goes beyond that. Harry Maguire seems to see Manchester United as a status more than anything else, his interviews in recent years and his insistence he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody haven’t encouraged people to warm to him. 

A seemingly nice and genuine family man, his close circle have closed in so much that it appears he sees any criticism as an unjustified attack. He’s the captain, he’s made it to this level, and those who suggest he’s not worthy are just haters.

It’s just the internet, it’s just social media, it’s just gobby fans, it’s detached from reality.

In the Maguire world, everyone is mistaken or unfair, he’s an excellent defender who has been horribly targeted. The vulnerability from his Mykonos debrief interview hasn’t made the journey to questions about his footballing performances, and it feels that the footballer believes he’s above such doubt. 

He’s made it. He’s played so many times for England, he’s Manchester United captain. You don’t rate him? You’re clearly the problem. 

And that’s the Harry Maguire issue. He’s just not very likeable to people who were set up and primed to like him. There’s more warmth from Manchester United fans towards Phil Jones, even if it is plaited with mockery. 

Often it’s hard to pinpoint reasons for these things, but with Harry there’s examples for the prosecution to present. After a period of poor form for his club, and subsequent criticism, a goal against Albania was followed by a cupped-ears celebration. It felt like arrogance bordering on utter delusion, again it was a case of ‘You’re all wrong, I’m The Man’.

His near obsession with retrieving the armband from Bruno Fernandes whenever he enters the pitch. His insistence he doesn’t have to prove anything and that criticism is unfair.

A bit like John Terry, but without the consistently-being-an-excellent-defender part. 

Football fans can warm to players going through poor form, but Harry rarely throws them a carrot to encourage that. There can be a connection, sympathy, defence, but when the captain of Manchester United sees that role as a status achievement rather than a responsibility it’s difficult to conjure up those feelings.

Now is the perfect time for Harry Maguire to change that. Martinez, who has already made his way into the hearts of fans, is out for the season, Varane may be in the same situation. If ever a six-foot-four Mykonos destroying hero was needed, it is now. 

Fail and tell everyone it’s their perception which is incorrect, and this Manchester United club captain will pretty much cement his standing with supporters.

Not hated by the majority, but distinctly unloveable.