Former Sheffield United man gets confidence boost from England boss Gareth Southgate

Harry Maguire retains the faith of England manager Gareth Southgate as the under-fire Manchester United captain prepares to line up in Tuesday’s friendly against Ivory Coast.

By Simon Peach
Monday, 28th March 2022, 5:24 pm

The Three Lions kicked off World Cup preparations with a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win in Saturday’s friendly against Switzerland at Wembley, where they return to take on non-European opposition for the first time since 2018.

Southgate is planning widespread changes as England and Ivory Coast meet in a senior international for the first time, with Maguire among those set to start under the arch.

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Harry Maguire (R) controls tha ball in front of John Stones (L) and Kyle Walker-Peters (C) as they take part in the training session of England's football team at the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club Training Ground (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The 29-year-old has struggled for form during a difficult season as a collective at United but the Three Lions boss has always kept faith with the centre-back.

“I hope we have an environment that all the players feel they can be the best versions of themselves,” Southgate said. “A lot of that is credit to the environment they have created.

“We have got super characters. I am looking at the young players coming in, the older players are all sitting with them at meal times, making them feel relaxed and at ease.

“Then there’s clarity on your job, on the pitch, what’s expected of you. I think they are things we have to achieve to let people perform at the best level.

“In terms of selection, that’s always a difficult conundrum because we’ve got players who we know have performed well in an England shirt.

“There’s got to be some level of scrutiny on how people are playing with their clubs because that has got to be a factor in it.

“Then, not so for this week, who is the opponent, who is best suited to playing against the opponent, so it is a complicated thing.

“I know everybody has a view on who we should and shouldn’t be picking.

“In the end we need the best players possible, playing at their best level to give ourselves the best chance of winning.”

Pushed on Maguire in particular, Southgate said: “Well, he has got us to a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final, so there’s no doubt he is more than capable of playing at the highest level.

“He was very good for us in the autumn and, yeah, the club are in a difficult moment. There could be any number of reasons for that.

“That doesn’t mean that players can be poor for a couple of years and then still find their way in and sometimes it depends on competition for positions.

“We’ve obviously left some forward players out, who haven’t been in good form, but there’s direct replacements, experienced replacements, for those players. As I say, it is a complicated decision.“