England boss Gareth Southgate opted to stick with Harry Maguire in his penultimate squad before the World Cup, despite him falling down the Manchester United pecking order.
Gareth Southgate is ready to put his reputation on the line in his support for Harry Maguire.
Under-pressure Maguire is set to start against Italy in the Nations League despite losing his place in the Manchester United starting line-up because of his alarming drop in form.
Southgate insisted that Maguire is still England’s best option in defence even though he has less than two months to rediscover his form ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
“England boss Southgate said:”Whatever reputation I have I’m putting it on there.
I think, look, you always have to back your judgement and we feel Harry is an important player.
“If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a level above him there would be a different consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition in that way.”
“He is our most dominant aerial centre-back. He is an important player for us. I think it’s important to back our best players.”
Maguire is struggling badly for confidence under new United boss Erik ten Hag and the England centre half eve lost his place in the starting line-up to face Moldovan minnows FC Sheriff in the Europa League.
England struggled badly in June when the fans turned on the players and booed Southgate for the first time in his four-year reign.
Defeat in Italy would see England relegated from the Nations League Group and get them a tougher qualifying Group for the Euros.
Southgate admits that it is “Not ideal” that big players like Maguire are not playing but says the squad have enough time and quality to turn their fortunes around.
“Southgate added:”Look, clearly, it’s not an ideal situation.
You want your best players playing regularly so that they’re physically in a good place and mentally in a good place.
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“The squad we’ve picked, there are a fair number of players you could argue we could have left out at this point but I think we wanted to keep that group together and to keep them involved, keep them feeling part of it.”
“But also they know that, for some of them, that they need to be playing more regularly because now we’re only a few weeks on from pre-season so physically if they’ve had a few 90 minutes, that’s fine. Another 7-8 weeks, that does start to become more complicated.”