Gareth Southgate says Harry Maguire’s lack of playing time “is not an ideal situation”, but the Manchester United captain at gunpoint retains the support and conviction of the England manager.
The world’s most expensive defender is currently in disgrace at Old Trafford, with Erik ten Hag leaving him on the bench after losing his 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 played in the 89th minute against Sheriff Tiraspol in the competition.
Southgate included the 29-year-old on his English side that day despite his lack of action – one of many similar problems he’s facing, which he likened to a situation handled by England rugby manager Eddie Jones.
Reigning champions Gallagher Premiership Saracens were relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season following salary cap violations, meaning a number of key international players had to practice their craft in the second tier.
“I just read Eddie Jones’s book and he had a similar situation with the Saracens players,” Southgate said.
“Even on reflection, he felt they were his best players and even if they were undercooked, they would still be better than players who weren’t at the level.
“So I don’t think there are many players who aren’t here now who are still at the level to come in and play.
“Look, clearly, 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 that we have chosen, there is a good number of players that one could argue that we could have excluded at this point, but I think we wanted to keep that group together and involve them, make them feel part of it.
“But they also know that, for some of them, they need to play more regularly because they’re only a few weeks away from preseason now, 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 spoke to Maguire about his current situation, Southgate said: “I didn’t feel the need to talk to him any differently than the rest of the players.
“I try to respond individually with all of them, this time it was a bit more complicated because we are 28, so I’m getting there!
“Look, he realizes he’s in a big club, big transfer fee and club captain, so I think that’s why the spotlight has been on him more.
“But he’s focused on training well every day and getting back on the team.”
All of Maguire’s 46 appearances came with Southgate, for whom he performed superbly during England’s run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and European final last year.
“I think, listen, you must always stand by your judgment and we believe he is an important player,” Southgate said ahead of Friday’s Nations League match against Italy at Euro 2020.
“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 that way.
“He is our most dominant air central defender. He and John (Stones) are really amazing with the ball – the amount of pressure they’ve endured for the team in the tournaments we’ve played because we don’t always have that midfield player who can move the game forward.
“It means there’s a tremendous amount of extra pressure on our center-backs to use the ball well and those two are as good as anyone in the world of football at doing it.”