Southgate hints Maguire is still England first choice despite Man United woes


Gaeth Southgate has dropped a major hint that Harry Maguire will be a World Cup starter despite the defender’s peripheral role at Manchester United.

Maguire is a regular for the Three Lions but his place in Southgate’s plans is under scrutiny after he lost his place in United’s team under Erik ten Hag.

The prospect of Maguire regaining his place at United appears remote with Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez established as Ten Hag’s defensive pairing, but the 29-year-old is set to start against Italy in Milan on Saturday as England look to avoid Nations League relegation. And Southgate has suggested Maguire will keep his place in the starting XI in Qatar.

‘Clearly, it’s not an ideal situation,’ said Southgate. ‘You want your best players playing regularly so that they’re physically and mentally in a good place. But he is an important player for us.

‘It’s important to back our best players. You always have to back your judgement. If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a level above him there would be a different consideration.

‘He is our most dominant aerial centre back. Him and John (Stones) are incredible with the ball.’

Maguire is set to feature in a back three, with Eric Dier and Kyle Walker pushing to start alongside him.

Reece James could start at right wing-back, and Southgate is believed to be considering playing Bukayo Saka on the opposite flank.

Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham are the frontrunners to start in midfield, with Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden hopeful of joining Harry Kane in attack.

On Wednesday, the FA revealed they will lobby FIFA over new labour protection laws after the abuse of migrant workers in Qatar ahead of the World Cup and confirmed Kane plans to wear a ‘One Love’ armband.

Their stance has been criticised for not going far enough, but Southgate said: ‘There is a limit to what can be achieved but bringing those issues to the table is what we are trying to do.

‘We are asking for change in a country we are respectful of and that has made a lot of progress but that we don’t have control over.’


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