Big-money Man Utd star sends strong message to Erik ten Hag over Old Trafford future as January exit talk persists

Scott McTominay, Casemiro, Fred and Harry Maguire of Man Utd

A top Manchester United has sent a warning to Erik ten Hag that he is not prepared to just settle for a place on the bench as talk continues over a potential January exit.

Club skipper Harry Maguire was handed his first start in more than a fortnight as the Red Devils eased to a 3-1 win over 10-man Reading in the FA Cup fourth round at Old Trafford on Saturday evening.

Casemiro scored twice, with Fred also on target as United booked their place in Monday’s fifth-round draw.

It was not a particularly tough night for Maguire, especially after Royals forward Andy Carroll saw red in the 65th minute.

Prior to the match, Ten Hag praised how Maguire had been performing in training as he pushed for a return to the first team, having not started since the Carabao Cup victory over Charlton on January 10.

The Dutchman said: “He’s training very well, he’s training very dominant and that’s what I want to see from him as a leader like he is, he’s the captain, so I have big expectations of him today.

“It’s not just about Harry, everyone has to match those expectations. We want to achieve this season so we need a squad, so every player needs to give all they have.”

Maguire remains fourth or even fifth choice

And while the England star knows he is in a tough battle with Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Victor Lindelof and even Luke Shaw for a starting spot, Maguire is not prepared to just accept a role as a back-up.

“I’m a player, 29-years-old, and I haven’t really been in this position in my career so it’s a position that I don’t want to get used to, but it’s part of the parcel of football,” said the former Leicester man.

“I’m working hard everyday, I’m pushing, I’m training well, and when my chance comes I need to take it.

“We know at this club we need competition for places, we have some top centre-backs at this club so I think we’re all in good from now until the end of the season.”

On his own performance against Reading, Maguire added: “I feel like I’ve looked after myself – I think it’s two-and-a-half weeks since my last start – so I’ve been working hard in training.

“The lads who’ve been playing have been doing well. So when I get the opportunity I need to take it and make sure we win. It was nice to be out there helping the lads and I’m ready when my chance comes.”

Maguire has been continually linked with a potential exit since the January transfer window opened, with several Premier League clubs weighing up a move, only for Ten Hag to rule that possibility out.

United are back in action on Wednesday when they host Forest in the second leg of the League Cup semis.

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