GARETH SOUTHGATE is ready to risk his reputation for Harry Maguire.
Defiant England boss Southgate and captain Harry Kane gave a big endorsement to the underdog Manchester United captain, who has not started in the Premier League since a 4-0 humiliation at Brentford on August 13.
Maguire is scheduled to start against Italy in the Nations League on Friday and the Three Lions need a win to avoid relegation to League B, which could affect the team’s qualification for Euro 2024 qualifiers.
Asked if he was showing too much faith in Maguire, Southgate said: “Whatever reputation I have, I’m putting it out there.
“You always have to back up your judgment and we think he’s an important player.
“If we thought that there are 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 in that way.
“He is our most dominant midfielder.
“Him and John Stones are unbelievable on the ball – the amount of pressure they’ve put on the team in the tournaments we’ve played because we don’t always have that pivot player in midfield who can progress the game.
“It means there is a lot 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.”
Since the Brentford thrashing, the 28-year-old Maguire has played just 101 minutes under new United manager Erik ten Hag, making one substitute appearance in the 3-1 home win against Arsenal, in addition to two Europa League matches.
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Southgate added: “Look, clearly it’s not an ideal situation. You want your best players to play regularly so they are in a good place physically and in a good place mentally.
“But he is an important player for us. I think it’s important to support our best players.
“I have not felt the need to speak to him differently from the rest of the players. I try to speak individually with all of them.
“That’s been a little more complicated this time because we have 28 players, so I’m getting there.”
England captain Kane also endorsed Maguire, who helped his country reach the World Cup semi-finals in Russia four years ago.
The Spurs forward added: “There has been some unfair criticism.
“Harry has been amazing in an England shirt for a long time, since the World Cup in 2018.
“Of course he would be the first to admit that the form of his club has not been as good as he would like, but that does not mean that he is a great player.
“He is at a stage where he has to fight to get back into the Man Utd team and knowing him, and I do very well, he will work very hard to do that, to use these games or whenever he does. He has the opportunity to show that he should be in the starting eleven and that depends on him”.
Jordan Henderson did not train yesterday so he will not participate tonight at the San Siro.
Jude Bellingham is set to start in midfield alongside Declan Rice with Kalvin Phillips injured.
England also face Germany at Wembley on Monday. Southgate added: “These are two important games.”