Has Harry Maguire lost his place at the heart of England’s defence?
Maguire was not selected for the Three Lions’ tie against San Marino yesterday, with Manchester City’s John Stones and Wolves’ Conor Coady adopting the centre back positions one of which is usually reserved for the Manchester United man.
Head coach Gareth Southgate could have started all three, but in fact reverted to a back four for the first time in eight games.
It could be that Southgate thought Maguire needed a rest after a gruelling schedule for United which has seen him play 44 games so far this season, especially as the United skipper has been struggling with a niggle.
But John Stones’ renaissance at Manchester City this season has certainly earned him a recall which could see Maguire dropping down the pecking order despite the dearth of options that Southgate has available to him in that position.
Indeed, United legend Roy Keane, who has previously been critical of Stones, now believes that the City man is the better player.
‘Stones has matured,’ Keane said on ITV before yesterday’s 5-0 win. ‘He’s cut out mistakes, scored a couple of goals.
‘He could be a big asset for England. His form would suggest [he’s ahead of Maguire] the form he’s in.
‘If Gareth plays a back three, Stones would be one of the main guys for that as he’s comfortable in possession’ (via The Mirror).
Southgate’s team selection in general yesterday made for grim reading for United players. Burnley keeper Nick Pope was given the nod ahead of Dean Henderson and Ben Chilwell was retained at left back despite the brilliant recent form of Luke Shaw. With Marcus Rashford out injured and Aaron Wan-Bissaka not selected for the squad, the only United representative in the team was Jesse Lingard, currently on loan at West Ham.
Of course, Maguire could well be recalled for England’s next two games against Albania and Poland on Sunday and Wednesday, respectively. But yesterday was the first occasion when he was available to Southgate but not selected to play, which does seem significant.