Gareth Southgate says Harry Maguire’s lack of playing time is “not an ideal situation”, but the under-fire Manchester United captain retains the England manager’s support and faith.
The world’s most expensive defender is currently out of favor at Old Trafford, with Erik ten Hag dropping him to the bench after losing the first two games of the season.
Maguire’s only start since then came in the Europa League defeat to Real Sociedad, and last Thursday he made an 89th-minute appearance against Sheriff Tiraspol in the competition.
Southgate included the 29-year-old in his England squad earlier that day despite the lack of action – one of several similar issues he is dealing with, which he compared to a situation England rugby coach Eddie Jones managed.
Reigning Gallagher Premier League champions Saracens were relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season after breaching the salary cap, meaning a number of key international players had to ply their trade in other teams.
“I’ve just read Eddie Jones’ book and he had a similar situation with the Saracens players,” Southgate said.
“Even in hindsight, he felt they were his best players and even if they were undercooked, they were still going to be better than players who weren’t up to par.
“So I don’t think there are many players who aren’t here now who are at the level yet to go in and play.
“Look, obviously, it’s not an ideal situation. You want your best players to play regularly so that they are physically in a good place and mentally in a good place.
– But he is an important player for us. I think it’s important to support our best players.
“The squad we’ve picked, there’s a large 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, make them feel a part of it.
“But they also know that for some of them, that they need to play more regularly because now we’re only a few weeks out of pre-season, so physically if they’ve had a few 90 minutes then that’s fine.
“Another seven, eight weeks, then it starts to get more complicated.”
Asked if he had spoken to Maguire about his current situation, Southgate said: “I haven’t felt the need to speak to him any differently to the rest of the players.
“I’m trying to pick up individually with all of them, it’s been a bit more complicated this time because we’ve got 28, so I’ll get there!
“Look, he understands 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.
“But he is focused on training well every day and getting back into the team.”
All of Maguire’s 46 caps have come under Southgate, for whom he has performed superbly during England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and last year’s European Championship final.
“I think, look, you always have to back your judgment and we feel he’s an important player,” Southgate said ahead of Friday’s Nations League game against Euro 2020 foes Italy.
“If we thought there were experienced players ready to come in and play at a level above him, it would be a different assessment and in some positions it would be a different level of competition that way.
“He is our most dominant aerial centre-back. He and John (Stones) are really incredible with the ball – how much pressure they’ve taken for the team in tournaments we’ve played because we don’t always have that midfielder who can get forward in the game.
“That means there’s a huge amount more pressure on our centre-backs to use the ball well and those two are as good as anyone in world football at doing that.”