Maguire having to remain patient in his pursuit of game time

A Year ago, Harry Maguire had started and finished all of Sheffield United’s 31 games bar one, which he had missed through suspension.

STRETCHED: Harry Maguire tries to quell Arsenals Alexis Sanchez. Of all the players Ive faced, he is right there at the top, said Maguire.

It was an identical tale 12 months before that, the teenager having again missed just one match through accumulating five bookings by January 6, 2013.

He had become such an integral figure at Bramall Lane in the seasons following his debut that he was involved in all but a handful of United’s matches.

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This season, however, has been very different with the 21-year-old having started just two Hull City games and spent 232 minutes on the pitch.

Adapting to the change has taken some time, as the Tigers defender is the first to admit.

“It is frustrating,” said the Mosborough-born defender. “Especially after three seasons where I had played every game. In the first half of this season, I only got a few minutes.

“I knew when I was signing for a Premier League club I would have to be patient so I am trying to stay that way.

“But, hopefully, I can stay involved with the first team now and see what happens.

“It is the gaffer’s decision whether or not I play in the next game.

“After the Arsenal game, the manager gave me a pat on the back and said ‘well done’.

“He has been great with me. He is giving me tips all the time. Obviously, he played in my position and was one of the best at it. If I can’t learn off him, I can’t learn off anyone.

“I am still young, still only 21, so there is a lot of time ahead, but every footballer wants to play.

“If I am not playing, I might have to look elsewhere (for a loan) but if I can keep in the squad then it is happy days.”

After making his Hull debut in the Europa League qualifier defeat to Lokeren in Belgium, Maguire had to wait more than a month for his next action in the Capital One Cup.

Getting knocked out by West Bromwich Albion meant a further spell on the sidelines and he had to wait until the Saturday before Christmas to make his Premier League debut, in the home defeat to Swansea City.

That league bow was a 13-minute cameo, which he followed by playing more than half an hour as a substitute in the New Year’s Day win over Everton.

He then started against Arsenal in Sunday’s FA Cup third round defeat.

Maguire, a close season capture by the Tigers, said: “It was nice to get a start. That was my first 90 minutes in a long time (since Lokeren in August).

“My fitness levels probably need to be improved. You can’t get that intensity when you’re training, it’s totally different.

“I have been doing my best to keep sharp and it was nice to get through the full 90 minutes.

“The result was disappointing but, as a team, there were some positives. They are things we can take into the next game.”

Maguire’s impressive display was a big positive from what was otherwise a comprehensive defeat against the Gunners.

He added: “It was the start I have been waiting for, and I feel a lot better for it.

“I will feel a lot more confident going into the next game now, knowing that I have taken my chance. Hopefully, that will be soon.

“You don’t come up against many players better than (Alexis) Sanchez. He was a different quality.

“Of all the players I have faced, he is right up there at the top.

“There are a great team, especially at the Emirates, so we knew it was going to be tough in the Cup.”