Harry Maguire says he feels vindicated over his decision to stay and fight for his place at Manchester United after forcing his way back into Erik ten Hag’s team.
The 30-year-old England defender’s future appeared to lie away from Old Trafford after he lost his starting place last season and was stripped of the captaincy but he ended up staying put.
Maguire remained confident he would win his place back and has started the club’s past eight matches in all competitions.
Asked it feels like personal vindication for staying at United, he said: “Of course.
“I played a few games last year, 16 or 17 starts, and I felt like I performed really well in the games I played in. I just didn’t play as many as I would have liked.
“On the other hand, Rapha (Varane) and Licha (Lisandro Martinez) were playing brilliantly and kept numerous clean sheets. I had to bide my time and be patient.
“I had two or three opportunities last season to get a run of games but I broke down with illness, I broke down with injuries twice, so I never got the rhythm and never got the run of games that I could prove myself to the manager.
“I have got that now, I am really enjoying my football and I really enjoy playing for this club.”
Maguire has brushed off regular abuse from fans during matches for United and England as “banter”, saying his achievements have helped him retain self-belief.
“Working hard in training is the main thing and making sure you’re ready,” said the centre-back.
“There was a lot of talk about me because I wasn’t playing games, but that is the way it is,” he added.
“I was playing well for my country, went to the World Cup and played well and always thought my form was there.”
Sixth-placed United have now won four of their past five Premier League matches but are struggling to score goals — with only 13 in 12 league matches.
Misfiring Marcus Rashford has scored just once while Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho, Antony and Anthony Martial are yet to open their Premier League accounts.
Defender Victor Lindelof, who scored the only goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win against Luton, admitted the team needed to be sharper in attack.
“Right now the most important thing is the three points and the result,” he told MUTV.
“But after that we have to keep going, keep working and building and hopefully we can score goals, close the game and not make it difficult for ourselves. But it’s step by step.
“We haven’t been playing at the highest level and we know that. We’ve just got to keep working hard.”