England boss Gareth Southgate hails 'pivotal' Harry Maguire

Gareth Southgate hails ‘pivotal’ Harry Maguire as England boss insists Manchester United captain is still a ‘big, big player’ for his side

  • Gareth Southgate has hailed the return of the ‘pivotal’ Harry Maguire 
  • Maguire is set to feature for the first time in 11 months against Belgium 
  • The defender has endured on-field and off-field issues since his last appearance
  • The Manchester United captain played in the 6-1 defeat to Spurs last week 

England manager Gareth Southgate has hailed the return of his ‘pivotal’ centre-half Harry Maguire after a torrid period for the Manchester United captain.

Maguire — a cult hero in England’s run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018 — will be under particular scrutiny against Belgium today in his first international appearance for 11 months.

Since then, the defender has been convicted of aggravated assault during a summer holiday in Mykonos and he was withdrawn from England’s previous squad in August as a result.

Gareth Southgate has hailed the return of the ‘pivotal’ defender Harry Maguire to England

His legal team have subsequently launched an appeal which will lead to a retrial but Maguire’s problems have continued on the pitch this season and his mistakes were blamed for Manchester United’s humiliating 6-1 defeat by Tottenham at Old Trafford last weekend.

Southgate is sticking by the 27-year-old, however, and insists England’s improved performances over the last three years have been largely down to Maguire.

‘We’re delighted to have him back with us. He’s an absolute top player,’ said Southgate, who will use him in a three-man defence that worked well in Russia.

The Manchester United captain is set to make his first England appearance in 11 months

‘He’s been pivotal to every good performance that we’ve had over the last few years and the success of the team, a lot of that has resided on having his stability and ability to bring the ball out from the back. We couldn’t have more faith and belief in what is possible for him. He’s a big, big player for us.

‘There’s obviously a lot changed in his life, a lot that he’s gone through over the last couple of months. He faces a different level of scrutiny on his performance because he’s the captain of Manchester United but he’s absolutely outstanding as far as we’re concerned.’

Ironically, Maguire will line up with Harry Kane, the Spurs striker who scored twice in the demolition of United.

Southgate insisted that Maguire has been ‘absolutely outstanding’ as far as he is concerned

Southgate accepts that picking some players up after poor results is part of his job as an international manager, with Liverpool losing 7-2 at Aston Villa just a few hours after United’s collapse.

‘We had a lot of players coming in after a weekend where there were some incredible results really and difficult days,’ said Southgate.

‘As an international team, that is one of the things you pick up, the consequences of club performances and the level of confidence of players and where they might be. Players might have had injuries, difficult matches, they may not have been selected.

‘You are dealing with all of that and trying to get them all on track.’

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