Gareth Southgate ready to risk reputation over Harry Maguire

Gareth Southgate admitted he was set to put his England reputation on the line by standing by Manchester United’s out-of-favour captain Harry Maguire in Milan on Friday.

Maguire is expected to start in a back three against Italy in the Nations League fixture, which is England’s penultimate game before the World Cup. The decision could pile more pressure on Southgate, who was booed and jeered by supporters at the end of the shocking 4-0 thrashing by Hungary in England’s last game in June.

“I am the manager of England and you are judged purely on results and in the moment,” said Southgate. “I am 30-plus years in football and I know how it works with fans. The most important thing is the players are together, the staff and I am supported by the people I work with and the rest…I am my own biggest critic, I am somebody who will always review everything intently however well it has gone, and you don’t expect to lose 4-0 at home and not be criticised.”

Asked if he was putting his reputation on the line by standing by Maguire, Southgate replied: “Whatever reputation I have, I’m putting it on there. I think, look, you always have to back your judgment and we feel he is an important player.” Maguire has lost his place in the United team since the arrival of Erik ten Hag as coach, having been dropped after the embarrassing 4-0 defeat by Brentford over a month ago.

Since then, Maguire has started only once, the 1-0 defeat by Real Sociedad in the Europa League, before losing his place again for the trip to FC Sheriff, in which he played one minute as a substitute. With John Stones suspended for the trip to Italy, Maguire could line up in a back three, which is unpopular with a group of fans and critics, alongside the recalled Eric Dier and Kyle Walker.

On Maguire’s lack of action at United, Southgate said: “Look, clearly, it’s not an ideal situation. You want your best players playing regularly so that they’re 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 back our best players.

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