England v Ivory Coast: Harry Maguire still has the faith of Gareth Southgate

March 29th, 2022

Harry Maguire has shown he can play at the highest level, according to Gareth Southgate – but the England manager warned that players “can’t be poor for a couple of years”.

The Manchester United defender’s club form has been criticised this season.

Maguire, 29, is set to start England’s friendly against Ivory Coast.

“He has got us to a World Cup semi-final and a Euros final so there is no doubt he is capable of playing at the highest level,” said Southgate.

In November, former United captain Roy Keane said Maguire’s form had been “a disgrace”.

The defender, who has won 41 caps for England, has faced more criticism in recent weeks, particularly for the way his team conceded goals against Burnley, Southampton, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City.

After Manchester United lost to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 earlier this month, BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty said Maguire has been playing “with an air of desperation”.

Southgate left Maguire on the bench for Saturday’s friendly win over Switzerland, with the centre-back set to be restored to the starting XI against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

“He was very good for us in the autumn. His club is in a difficult moment – there are any number of reasons for that,” said Southgate.

“That doesn’t mean players can be poor for couple of years and still find their way in.

“[Continuing to select players] also sometimes depends on competition for places.

“We have left some forward players out who haven’t been in good form. But there are direct and experienced replacements for those players. It is a complicated decision.”

‘There’s a difference between loyalty and stupidity’

Asked how important a game it is for Maguire on Tuesday, former England striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Enormous. He’s had a bang average season at Manchester United, and I think that’s being kind to him.

“Gareth [Southgate] is very loyal so at this moment in time, we all think Harry Maguire will start for England in the World Cup.

“But loyalty can only take you so far. Eventually there has to be a cut-off. If his form doesn’t improve then somebody else will have to step in.

“There’s a difference between loyalty and stupidity, and if Maguire keeps performing badly then Gareth’s got no choice but to play somebody else.”

Players won’t shy away from Qatar questions – Mings

England defender Tyrone Mings says the squad will not “shy away” from the ongoing discussion about Qatar’s suitability to host the 2022 World Cup.

The host nation’s human rights record has been a recurring subject since it was awarded the tournament, while homosexuality is illegal in the Arab country and women’s rights are also a subject of ongoing debate.

Additionally, a report in the Guardian last year claimed 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country since it was awarded the World Cup 12 years ago – although Qatar disputes those figures.

Echoing the words of skipper Harry Kane last week, Mings said the England players want to use their platform to “try and improve rights” for other people.

“On Qatar hosting the World Cup, it’s not our fault it’s there,” the Aston Villa centre-back told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“What we can do is accept the responsibility of trying to cast a light on some of the topics and some of the issues out there.

“We are obviously players who enjoy playing football, but it is also quite an honour to be asked about these things. Back in the day I don’t think footballers would have been front and centre talking on human rights issues or topics going on around the world.

“That’s the responsibility we take on, but we didn’t choose where the World Cup is, all we can do now is try and use our platform to try and improve rights for other people.

“We are not going to change the world, but we will do our very best to do what we can.”


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