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Manchester United and England stand by club captain Harry Maguire as the defender’s appeal begins

Manchester United and England stood firmly behind Harry Maguire on Wednesday as it emerged the beleaguered defender faces a two-year wait to clear his name.

United have no plans to relieve Maguire of the club captaincy and confirmed in a statement that his application for appeal has been accepted, which they insist effectively makes him a free man until the retrial.

However, a top criminal rights lawyer in Athens challenged those claims on Wednesday, insisting the conviction would continue to ‘hang over’ Maguire until a successful appeal. 

Nevertheless England manager Gareth Southgate is ready to recall Maguire for the October internationals against Wales, Belgium and Denmark.

The defender was handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence on Tuesday after being found guilty of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and repeated attempts of bribery following a fracas on the Greek island of Mykonos last week.

Yet he may have to wait up to two years before his appeal is heard due to a backlog of legal cases in Greece.

Nevertheless, United went public with their belief on Wednesday that Maguire, following his successful application for an appeal, is ‘innocent’ and would subsequently not be hindered in applications for travel or visas ahead of Champions League fixtures.  

A club statement read: ‘An appeal against yesterday’s verdict was lodged this morning by Harry’s legal team. In accordance with the Greek judicial process, the filing of an appeal extinguishes the initial court verdict and nullifies the conviction.

‘The appeal has been accepted and will lead to a full retrial in a more senior court. This means that Harry has no criminal record and is once again presumed innocent until proven guilty.’

Stavroula Tomara, a leading criminal rights attorney in Athens, contested that interpretation, and said: ‘Until the appeal, the conviction will hang over Maguire’s head.’

Maguire and his family have yet to return to England and are receiving protection from security while at a secret location abroad.He was withdrawn from the England squad on Tuesday following his conviction. 

Southgate and United agreed that Maguire should be left out of the spotlight. United have been fully supportive, resisting all calls to drop him as their captain.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects questions to be raised about how Maguire can continue as an ambassador for the club but they believe removing him as captain would undermine his appeal.

That threatens to be an arduous process as prosecution lawyer Dr Yoannis Paradissis warned the appeal may take up to two years to get to court. 

Speaking from his office on Syros, where Maguire’s brief trial was heard, Paradissis said: ‘Maguire, if he were to make a full and proper apology to those involved and the court, might even see himself and his two other defendants acquitted. That is the way the Greek system works.

‘The police officers I represent were just doing their job. But even if Maguire says he was not heavily involved in the incident, he needs to apologise — that is important.  

‘Without apologising, Maguire, in the eyes of Greek law, just makes even more trouble for himself.

‘There is a total contradiction in what is being said by the defendants. On the one hand, they deny they were shown ID by the officers yet they are heard then shouting “F*** the police” — why would they shout that if they did not think they were fighting police? It makes no sense.’

United chiefs remain in dialogue over what course of action to take with Maguire but their support will remain until convinced he is guilty of any misdemeanour.

United’s players are back to training next week and Maguire is expected to be there, though he has a bruised leg from the fracas.

Additional reporting by Jack Gaughan and Christian Gysin 

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