Gareth Southgate has defended his selection of Harry Maguire in the England squad for this month’s friendlies, insisting the defender “can play at the highest level”.
The 29-year-old Manchester United captain has come under criticism for his club performances this season, with some questioning whether he deserved a place in the England squad for the matches against Switzerland and the Ivory Coast.
Maguire, who was an integral part of both England’s 2018 World Cup semi-final campaign and their Euro 2020 final run, could feature against the Ivory Coast at Wembley on Tuesday night, live on Sky Sports, having been an unused substitute for Saturday’s win over Switzerland.
Asked whether Maguire is still one of the best England players, Southgate replied: “He has got us to a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final so there’s no doubt he’s more than capable of playing at the highest level.
Highlights of the international friendly between England and Switzerland at Wembley
“He was very good for us in the autumn. The club [Manchester United] are in a difficult moment – there could be any number of reasons for that – so 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 had some forward players out who haven’t been in good form but there’s direct, experienced replacements for those players, so it is a complicated decision.”
Southgate added: “In terms of selection, that’s always a difficult conundrum because we’ve got players who we know have performed well in an England
“There’s got to be some level of scrutiny on how people are playing with their clubs because that’s got to be a factor within it and then who’s the opponent and who’s best-suited to play against the opponent.
“It is a complicated thing and 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.”
Maguire’s United team-mate Luke Shaw is also enduring a difficult season at Old Trafford.
But following his equalising goal in the 2-1 victory over Switzerland at the weekend, the 26-year-old said feeling ‘wanted’ is a factor in his improved England form.