Gabriel Agbonlahor has challenged Roy Keane over his fierce criticism of Manchester United and England defender Harry Maguire.
Maguire has drawn stinging criticism in recent weeks ever since returning early from a calf injury against Leicester. Maguire’s standards notably dipped as Manchester United began to struggle, though his sub-par displays were not enough to put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Gareth Southgate off selecting him.
United legend Keane had been particularly firm with his criticism of the centre-back. Following the Red Devils’ tame deefeat to Manchester City two weeks ago, Keane claimed Maguire – along with Luke Shaw – were two players he had “given up on”.
So it came as no surprise to see Maguire celebrate in style when heading home for England against Albania on Friday. Maguire cupped his hands to his ears in a gesture many felt was aimed at his critics.
That led to Keane labelling Maguire a “disgrace”. He also described his celebration as “embarassing”.
Now, speaking on talkSPORT (via the Daily Mail), Gabriel Agbonlahor has pushed back on Keane’s assessment.
“I’ve seen the quotes and the video of it from Roy Keane and I think Roy Keane is being a big bully, there.”
“I think he’s bullying him because Harry Maguire has been under a lot of pressure after some not very good performances for Manchester United.
“This was the next game available to prove that he’s a good centre-half. Yes, it’s Albania but, still, we had a job to do. He scores, the excitement of scoring – you’re going to celebrate.’
“If I was going for a run of bad form when I scored the goal, I’d want to do the exact same celebration – hands on your ears to the critics to say, ‘I’m going to try and put in a good performance’, and he did that.”
Agbonlahor then went on to suggest Maguire’s prominent role with England and United draws him higher levels of criticism than most. He also criticised those that jump on the bandwagon when Keane speaks.
“[Maguire] is our best centre-half” – Agbonlahor
“I thought his defending was very good and he scored a goal,” Agbonlahor added.
“Every time he does something now it feels like everyone is against him.
“He’s English, he’s the captain of Manchester United. Yes, there’s pressure with that, but he’s probably our best centre-half. Let’s get behind him and not always trying to criticise him.
“For me, it’s bullying from Roy Keane. Everyone sort of jumps on the bandwagon whenever Roy Keane says something.”