Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has targeted “so-called experts” like Roy Keane after intense criticism of defender Harry Maguire.
Red Devils captain Maguire came under enormous pressure for his early season performances and came under harsh criticism after below-par performances against Liverpool and Manchester City.
Getting a brief respite from poor club form, Maguire scored England’s opening goal in a 5-0 win over Albania at the international break, holding his ears to the crowd.
Keane commented on the gesture, saying, “He’s obviously putting his hands up like he’s silencing the critics, but I think it’s embarrassing.”
“He’s been a shame the last few months for Manchester United and he’s thinking about the scores and that’s going to silence his critics. Embarrassing.”
Although fellow pundits Ian Wright and Jermaine Defoe agree with Keane’s assessment that day, Magurie – who was also backed by England boss Gareth Southgate – offered a measured response after the game.
“I am the captain of Manchester United,” he said. “Sure, I’ll get criticism when the team isn’t doing well, but the celebration wasn’t directed at anyone.”
Maguire manager Solskjaer has enjoyed support from his former United team-mates in the media, with Keane, Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand regularly defending the Norwegian.
However, the pressure has intensified this season, with Solskjaer the favorite to become the next Premier League manager to lose his job, and his friends in the media have started to change their tone.
Ferdinand recently said maybe it was time for Solskjaer to pass the baton, while Keane admitted he no longer believes in the coach.
And Solskjaer couldn’t resist doing a sly dig at his critics and those of the team while defending Maguire ahead of their Premier League return against Watford on Saturday.
“As a team we haven’t performed at the level we know we can do and at the levels we need to be,” said Solskjaer.
“Harry [Maguire], like Gareth [Southgate] Rightly said, he’s not the type to hide on the treatment table or try to find an excuse not to gamble.
“Harry is a top professional who wants to be there for the manager every time and he trains really well and I think this week leaving and scoring a few goals for his country will help his form and his confidence.
“For me, no, I didn’t consider removing his captain’s armband. He has been an absolute mainstay for us on and off the pitch since his arrival.
“So-called experts have their opinions and it’s their job to give their opinion, it’s not something we have to worry about too much.
“As a true example of a Man United player, Harry is always there for his team and his country.”
The “so-called experts” comment can clearly read as a reference to Keane and the rest of those now turning to the boss, but could there have been another search targeting his former teammate?
Solskjaer’s latest quote that Maguire is ‘always there for his team’ could well be seen as targeting Keane, who was fired from Ireland’s 2002 World Cup squad following his public row with the former manager Mick McCarthy.
If you’re not familiar with that story, here’s how it was described by former Republic of Ireland international Clinton Morrison on talkSPORT: “Roy was a smoker!
“Roy was always ready to explode back then, still fighting things and always ready to step into one.
“They broke up and Roy stood there and said, ‘Go on, Mick. What are you going to do? Take a decision.’ So he had to send him home.
“And, literally in two days, he was back in Manchester wearing that horrible Diadora tracksuit he wore to walk his dog.
” I could not believe it ! “