England manager Gareth Southgate has hit out on the ‘big agenda’ against Manchester United defender Harry Maguire.
Maguire was dropped from the United XI after season-opening defeats to Brighton and Brentford with summer signing Lisandro Martinez replacing him alongside him Raphael Varane.
United won four games straight away, including victories over Liverpool and Arsenal, with the renewed partnership at the back, leaving the club captain out in the cold under Erik ten Hag.
After losing his place on the side and his three starts for his club this season all ended in defeats, Maguire’s inclusion in the England squad was taken by surprise with the 29-year-old starting Friday’s Nations League game against Italy.
Southgate has maintained his faith in the former Leicester City defender, but points to his key role with England’s teams reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-final and last summer’s European Championship final.
“They’re probably a little overcooked in terms of the number of games they’ve had,” Southgate told Channel 4, of players who haven’t played regularly for their clubs this season.
“But for some reason there’s a big agenda with Harry Maguire and a big agenda against him.
“I’ve never seen a player get the kind of treatment he’s received.”
“He has been a crucial part of us getting to the semi-finals of the World Cup, he was named in the Team of the Tournament at the European Championship.
“He knows what we think of him. He was actually our main defender during that period.’
Southgate also defended the inclusion of Maguire in the squad earlier this week, stressing the importance of experienced players in the squad and calling the United skipper England’s ‘most dominant centre-back in the air’.
“You should always support your judgment and we think he is an important player,” Southgate said.
“If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a level above him, there would be another consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition that way.
“He is our most dominant central defender in the air. Him and John [Stones] are incredible with the ball.’
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