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Manchester United’s Harry Maguire says patience has paid off

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Harry Maguire said his decision to stay at Manchester United in the summer has been vindicated after breaking back into Erik ten Hag’s team.

After a frustrating first season under Ten Hag, Maguire was close to a move to West Ham United during the transfer window, but ended up staying at Old Trafford.

He started the current campaign on the bench, but has started the last eight games in all competitions and believes it shows he was right to remain at United.

“I played a few games last year, 16 or 17 starts, and I felt like I performed really well in the games I played in, I just didn’t play as many as I would have liked,” Maguire said. “On the other hand, Rapha [Raphaël Varane] and Licha [Lisandro Martínez] were playing brilliantly and kept numerous clean sheets.

“I had to bide my time and be patient. I had two or three opportunities last season to get a run of games but I broke down with illness, I broke down with injuries twice, so I never got the rhythm and never got the run of games that I could prove myself to the manager. I have got that now.

“I am really enjoying my football and I really enjoy playing for this club. I was willing to stay and fight for my place and we have four or five top international centre-backs at this club and the competition for places is really high.”

Maguire, who still holds the title of world’s most-expensive defender thanks to his £80 million move from Leicester City in 2019, has won back his place following Martinez’s lengthy injury lay-off.

Meanwhile, Ten Hag has hinted he’s not keen on a combination of Maguire and Varane at the back and for Saturday’s 1-0 win over Luton, Victor Lindelöf was preferred over the Frenchman.

Maguire didn’t start a Premier League game until October but, with Martinez set to be out until after Christmas, the 30-year-old is now a fixture in the team.

“Working hard in training is the main thing and making sure you’re ready,” added Maguire. “I started 16 or 17 games last year and felt like my form was there. There was a lot of talk about me because I wasn’t playing games, but that is the way it is. I was playing well for my country, went to the World Cup and played well and always thought my form was there.

“But I am up against some top, top-level centre-backs and last year they were playing amazing, so I didn’t get as many opportunities as I would have liked. This club demands competition for places and that is what we have in my position.”

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European Leagues

Tella Helps Leverkusen Break Bayern’s Record After Win Against Mainz

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Nathan Tella was in action for Bayer Leverkusen who secured a hard fought 2-1 win against Mainz in the Bundesliga on Friday night.

Tella came on in the 83rd minute and helped Leverkusen hold on to their lead and claim the three points.

His Nigerian teammate Victor Boniface is still out with injury.

The win means Leverkusen stretched its lead to 11 points over champions Bayern Munich in the league table.

Also, Xabi Alonso’s men set a German record of 33 games unbeaten across all competitions.

Former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka fired Leverkusen into a third-minute lead, after letting fly from outside the penalty area for his first goal on his 31st appearance for the club.

But Dominik Kohr replied for the visitors with a header at the other end four minutes later.

In the 68th minute Leverkusen went 2-1 up thanks to Robert Andrich’s harmless-looking shot which Mainz keeper failed to hold.

With 10 minutes left Mainz were reduced to 10 men when Jessic Ngankam was sent off after a VAR check for a dangerous tackle on Xhaka.

Bayern Munich could reduce the 11-point gap to eight if they beat Leipzig on Saturday.

Meanwhile, 11 rounds of fixtures would remain after this weekend.

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If I score, I won’t celebrate it – says Ramos ahead of Real Madrid clash

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Sergio Ramos will return to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since he left Real Madrid in 2021 to join PSG, when he lines up for Sevilla on Sunday.

The veteran defender won five La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues in his 16-year spell at Real, scoring 101 goals in 671 appearances.

Ramos, back at boyhood club Sevilla, says he will not celebrate if he scores.

“I wouldn’t celebrate but if I happen to score and it was enough for us to win I would be delighted, those three points would be very good for us,” Ramos told the La Liga website.

Ramos is aware of the difficulty of the match for Sevilla against the league leaders, Real Madrid, who approach the game after drawing in Vallecas and having a week without matches.

“Real Madrid is always the favorite to win everything. They’re in a good moment, leading the league, and have players of extraordinary magnitude and quality. We know very well the ground we’re going to step on, and we’ll try in one way or another to have a good game there,” he said.

he recalled how close they were in the first leg at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. “We played Madrid head-to-head, we had chances to win. Kepa made a very good save from my header that would have given us the victory. When the team is compact, we’re all together, we play with good intensity, and we press high, we’re a guerrilla team.”

Ramos didn’t reveal his plans for next season, proud of the decision he made to return to Sevilla after his adventure at PSG.

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Pep Guardiola admits Kevin De Bruyne is not ’100 per cent’

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The Belgian international sat out City’s 1-0 win over Brentford on Tuesday as the 32-year-old had some niggles. Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth, Guardiola revealed De Bruyne “did not feel comfortable” playing against the Bees, but he is very likely to be in the squad for the clash against the Cherries.

The Spaniard told reporters on Friday: “He’s [De Bruyne] good – not injured. He’s better. I don’t know if he is 100 per cent but we took a good decision to not take a risk, apart from the result, if the result was not good, people would ask why he didn’t play. He didn’t feel comfortable.

“We have training at 4pm [Friday]. The day after the game he didn’t train and yesterday everyone was off, but he trained by himself. Today [Friday] we will assess. I am sure he will travel.”

City are still in the hunt for a second-straight treble (Champions League, FA Cup, Premier League) despite appearing to be at a lower level to where they were at this point last season. For much of the campaign they have been without the influential midfielder due to injury but when he is fit he makes a huge difference. Therefore, managing his minutes is key.

After City take on Andoni Iraola’s Bournemouth this weekend, Guardiola’s side travel to Luton Town in round five of the FA Cup on Tuesday. They then host rivals Manchester United on March 3 in the Premier League.

 

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