Harry Maguire insists Manchester United haven’t ‘run out of steam’ while revealing that Paul Pogba apologised for his inexplicable handball in the club’s 1-1 draw with West Ham.
Manchester United moved up to third in the Premier League despite being held by the Hammers at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, Mason Greenwood’s crisp strike cancelling out a penalty from in-form West Ham forward Michail Antonio.
Antonio’s spot-kick came as a result of Pogba blocking Declan Rice’s fierce drive with his hands, the midfielder covering his face in an act that former United defender Gary Neville branded as ’embarrassing’.
Maguire admits the 27-year-old should have shown greater bravery in defending the strike, but says Pogba has apologised to the dressing room for his role in a disappointing draw.
“You could say it was a natural reaction from Paul. Should he do it? He probably should take one in the face, but he has apologised, he held his hands up and knew that he shouldn’t do that,” Maguire told Sky Sports.
“It was soft because it’s probably not ending up in a goal, they’ve been given a penalty and got an amazing opportunity to take the lead.”
"It's rubbish from him, rubbish!" 🚮
Paul Pogba inexplicably handles the ball in the box and Antonio punishes him on the stroke of half-time! ✋
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 22, 2020
United’s lacklustre performance came after they crashed out of the FA Cup semi-finals to Chelsea at the weekend, their displays having suffered a notable drop following a 19-game unbeaten run either side of the season’s suspension.
Maguire admits his side – who must avoid defeat to fifth-placed Leicester on the final day to guarantee Champions League qualification – were ‘disappointed’ not to take three points against David Moyes’ side, but insists United have not ‘run out of steam’ ahead of their crunch clash at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.
“We came here wanting three points so we’re disappointed. When we play at Old Trafford we want to win every game.
“We started the game really well, on the front foot, we dominated the first 30 minutes. We should really try and score but we always need the ball to bounce for us or be more clinical in front of goal and we conceded a soft goal and made it hard for ourselves.
“It was a good reaction at the start of the second half, [but] we huffed and puffed and we weren’t good enough. We gave the ball away far too much and maybe ran out of steam a bit.
“The momentum of the game just kept stopping, sub after sub, drinks break, VAR, we couldn’t get any flow to the second half, I’m sure their players would say the same. It just felt like we played for three minutes and then stopped for a minute. We can’t make excuses.
“The schedule has been ridiculous. I think we’ve played four games in nine days or something, but it’s no excuse. We’re fully prepared. We started with a high intensity. We haven’t been starting games well, we’ve been finishing them a lot better.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve run out of steam. We’re already well prepared and got a huge game on Sunday and we’re looking forward to it.”