England manager Gareth Southgate has jumped to Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire‘s defence, explaining his reasons for selecting the player.
Maguire has barely featured for United after he lost his place in the team to Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.
Southgate admitted to The Times that he was putting his own reputation on the line by calling up the 29-year-old after his decision drew significant backlash and angry reactions from the public.
However, Southgate pointed out Maguire’s impressive performances for England in a solid partnership with John Stones, which have helped take the Three Lions to another level.
The England boss said, “Look, he understands that he’s at a big club, big transfer fee and captain of the club so I think that’s why the spotlight has been on him more.”
“Clearly, it’s not an ideal situation [Maguire not playing]. You want your best players playing regularly so that they’re physically in a good place and mentally in a good place.”
He branded Maguire as one of England’s best players and the team’s most dominant centre-back aerially along with Manchester City’s Stones.
He praised the pair for their ability to absorb pressure when the team is struggling due to the absence of a pivot player with the ability to progress the ball – this is something Maguire has consistently failed at with the Red Devils.
With Stones suspended for England’s crunch tie against Italy tonight, Maguire is likely to start next to Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who has been a revelation for Tottenham in this campaign.
The Athletic also reported that Southgate, contrary to his own declaration that he would pick players based on club form, was prioritizing Maguire due to the trust he has in the player.
In a bold show of support for the United defender, Southgate added, “Maguire is an important player for us and it’s important to back our best players. Whatever reputation I have, I’m putting it on there.”
Maguire will undoubtedly feature in some capacity for his club this season. While he may have relinquished his position as a starter, it will only be a net positive if he replicates his England form for the 20-time English champions and provide not only cover but much-needed competition for Martinez and Varane.