Harry Maguire: ‘No logic’ in dropping defender from England squad before World Cup, says Gareth Southgate

Manchester United and England defender Harry Maguire

Gareth Southgate did not “see any logic” in dropping Harry Maguire from his latest England squad with a World Cup on the horizon, though admitted that a player’s form has to meet a minimum standard in order to be selected.

Maguire’s performances have come under heavy scrutiny this season amid Manchester United’s struggles at home and in Europe, with his position as the club captain also being questioned.

The 29-year-old has been an integral part of Southgate’s England set-up since emerging as one of his first-choice centre-backs in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, winning 41 caps in all.

Despite suffering a knee ligament injury at the end of last season, Maguire recovered and carried his excellent form with United into last summer’s European Championship, after which he was named in the team of the tournament.

The former Leicester City defender has struggled for consistency this season, however, and his substitution during the late stages of United’s Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday was ironically cheered by some inside Old Trafford.

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Southgate said that a combination of factors, including Maguire’s seniority and a lack of depth in his position, meant that he had never considered leaving him out of the squad to play friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast later this month.

The England manager insisted that Maguire has never let England down when called upon, though stopped short of saying that the United defender’s place in his squad is guaranteed regardless of form.

“There’s always going to be a point at which people have got to play at a good level,” Southgate said. “But I don’t see… he’s been first choice for us for the last three years, I don’t see any logic in us leaving him out of a squad at this moment in time.

“I’m not sure who else would be coming in to play at a higher level who we could really hang our hat on at a World Cup situation in eight games’ time.

Rashford left out of England squad after collapse in form at United

“It’s not been ideal for Harry, but I’ve got great faith that we can get him into a structure and way of playing that we’ve always managed to accentuate his considerable strengths and protect, like all players, all players have areas where they need protecting and that’s what you try to do as a coach and a manager, trying to set your team up in that way.”

Southgate added: “Clearly he has not been at his very best but I am pretty assured by how he has been with us – a consistently high level of matches over four years, really.

“It will be good to spend some time with him when he has got a few days without a game and that would be a good moment for everybody to clear their heads and and get a new focus and stimulus with us for the next couple of weeks.”

Maguire is not the only United player to have come under scrutiny this season, with Marcus Rashford counting of the cost of his collapse in form by missing out on Southgate’s selection.

Jadon Sancho was also omitted by the England manager despite improved displays of late. Southgate admitted that United’s problems may affect their players chances of making his squad, though added that the onus is on those players to help their club too.

“At various points this season there have been players in our squad who haven’t been in great form, or haven’t been in their team and that wins its always difficult to pick a squad,” he said.

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“Like I said earlier, it’s not like picking a 100m relay team when you’re picking the four fastest people and it’s simple. We’ve got to look at what level is possible from each player and wrapped up in that, what is their current situation and the circumstances behind that? What’s the competition in that particular position?

“So yes, there are other clubs which are having difficult periods which won’t be helping the individual situations of players, but there’s a responsibility for the players to help their clubs get out of those situations as well. It works both ways, I’d say.”

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