How Sheffield United's beleaguered players can learn from "outstanding" Harry Maguire ahead of Man Utd trip

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Sheffield United set to come up against former academy product Harry Maguire when they travel to Man Utd

Sheffield United’s players can learn a lesson in mentality from former Blade Harry Maguire, manager Chris Wilder believes, ahead of tomorrow evening’s trip to Manchester United. The Blades are expected to come up against their former academy product for the second time this season at Old Trafford, 10 years since the Sheffield-born defender left his hometown club.

Since then Maguire has gone on to excel for club and country, helping Erik ten Hag’s side reach a second successive FA Cup final at the weekend and a shoo-in for Gareth Southgate’s England plans ahead of this summer’s European Championships. It is that elite mentality, in the face of much pressure and criticism from the outside, that Wilder admires and also wants in his players, who are sliding towards relegation to the Championship after Saturday’s 4-1 humbling at home to Burnley.

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The Blades’ terrible goal difference means they are effectively 11 points adrift of safety, with games quickly running out, and Wilder - who acknowledged a lack of “leadership” in his post-match verdict on the Burnley defeat and accused some of his players of looking to leave the pitch early - will place even more focus on mentality in his team selections between now and the end of the season.

“You're talking about Harry at world-class level,” Wilder said. “He's been dug out so many times it's unbelievable. But he keeps coming through it and he's mentally strong and you have to be mentally strong. You have to be physically strong too but most important is that mentality, especially at Bramall Lane.

“You can't go under. And if one goes under, you're playing with 10. If two go under, you're playing with nine. The game's hard enough, 11 v 11. It's even tougher when you're playing in the Premier League and we can't afford to carry anyone or have passengers.”

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Maguire played over 100 times after progressing from the Shirecliffe academy, leaving for Hull City in 2014 before subsequent moves to Leicester City and then Old Trafford saw him become, for a time, the most expensive defender in world football history at £80m. At one stage his Red Devils career looked over but he battled back to become an integral part of ten Hag’s plans and had played 35 times for club and country this season - including the 2-1 win for his side at Bramall Lane back in October.

“Outstanding,” was Wilder’s verdict on Maguire’s career. “We've all seen his progression, and we’re delighted for him. He hasn't had it easy. When you move to a club like Man U there are a lot of advantages but also an awful lot of pressure put on you, and he's had to endure some tough times. As we all have, as we are now. He's done that at club and international level but the way he handles himself is first class.

“He’s a humble guy, he’s worked hard to get where he is and he's an absolute shoo-in for an England team looking to win a major honour. And we have a boy from just down the road that's right in the middle of it. We'll have a shake of a hand after but before that, it's game on. And he'll understand that just as much as anyone else.”

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