This World Cup has been a test of Harry Maguire’s character as well as his abilities – and he’s shown everyone he has a lot of both.
His struggles at Manchester United were a big concern to me before the tournament because your form doesn’t change just because you put on a different shirt.
Maguire hadn’t played much for United this season and when he arrived in the squad he looked nervous and far from the level we are used to seeing him play for England.
The amount of criticism he was getting was way over the top, but you can’t escape the fact that he hadn’t been at his best for several months.
It meant he came to this World Cup with his international spot also under scrutiny, but any doubts I had about whether he should play for England in Qatar were resolved immediately.
The first game, against Iran, was a pivotal moment. Had he been shaky there for whatever reason, it could have turned into a very different tournament for him.
But he got off to a positive start, took the ball and regained his confidence – and he’s continued to build his confidence in every game since then.
He was our best player against the United States, when he showed what a great defender he was when the ball entered our box, and he also looked extremely calm against Wales.
A different player for club and country?
The way England are organized is one of the reasons why Maguire seems more comfortable playing for his country than his club.
Gareth Southgate uses a system that exploits everyone’s individual strengths and protects their weaknesses, such as Maguire’s mobility.
Being in a team that defends deep with a low block suits him much better than when he plays for United and he is much higher up the pitch.
For United, Erik ten Hag wants his centre-halves 10 yards inside the opposition half when the team are in possession, leaving a huge gap between Maguire and his goalkeeper that opponents can exploit.
That doesn’t really happen with England as he has more teammates around him and less space behind him where his lack of pace can be exposed.
All of this helps Maguire defensively, and the other part of his game has never been in question. He’s so comfortable with the ball and getting it out of the defense which is always vital to the way Southgate wants to play.
Having John Stones by his side is also important, of course. They’ve played together in two-man and three-man defense at this level in all sorts of situations, including the last two majors.
In total, they’ve played together 31 times for England in the last five years and have lost just three times in 90 minutes, so the confidence is there – they know each other so well, and it shows.
The importance of feeling wanted by your manager
After the way he started this World Cup, Maguire will no longer think about his problems at United.
It was up to him to pull himself together in order to prove the skeptics wrong, but he couldn’t have done that if Southgate hadn’t stuck to him in the first place and let him answer his criticisms. in the field.
The manager’s role was to make Maguire feel wanted and valued, which Southgate did by choosing him in their squad.
I think the moment you feel like the manager doesn’t think you’re worthy or ready, then there’s a problem.
This kind of people management is one of Southgate’s main strengths. He has created a happy environment that allows all of his players to thrive.
I was on England teams where you knew some players didn’t want to be involved and would make excuses for injuries to avoid call-ups.
Now it’s different. Southgate has clearly put the team together and from the outside they all want to be there and they all feel part of it because they enjoy it so much.
The big thing for me is that they all look like homies, really, which wasn’t really the case in my day.
Rashford has refocused to regain his best
Maguire is not the only England player to have gone through a difficult period to shine in this tournament.
His United team-mate Marcus Rashford followed a similar journey where he seemed to lose some of his confidence, only to have played so well in the Premier League this season. Now he is doing the same for England.
So glad to see him flying again and maybe he just needed to refocus to get back on track.
He had also suffered from injuries, so getting a good pre-season last summer was huge for him. He looks fresh and, as I said on BBC One after the Wales game, a smiling, hungry, buoyant and optimistic Marcus Rashford is a devastating player. Right now it’s all of those things.
When he receives the ball, he turns and runs and is aggressive with it – he doesn’t receive it and plays it backwards. Instead, he faces his defender and says, “I’m going to test you.”
Rashford already has three goals, after just one start. He took us to a different level against Wales and it’s going to be very hard to drop him for the game against Senegal now.
Four years ago it was Harry Kane who scored the most goals when we reached the semi-finals in Russia. This England side are doing things differently, but I get similar vibes about our chances of going far this time too.
I trust the whole team and I like the fact that when we made changes, we didn’t seem weaker at all. We feel like we’re ready and I can’t wait to find out what’s next.
Rio Ferdinand was talking to Chris Bevan in Doha, Qatar.