Gareth Southgate has vowed he will continue to choose Harry Maguire for England as there is currently no one better to take his place and insists he did not feel ‘painful’ after the 4-0 loss to Hungary in June.
Maguire has not yet started a Premier League match for Manchester United since back-to-back defeats to Brighton and Brentford to open the season.
There have been calls for the out-of-favour centre-back for Friday’s penultimate game of Nations League Group A3 against Italy in Milan, but Three Lions boss Southgate believes Maguire is still one of England’s best defenders.
“You should always support your judgment and we think he is an important player,” said Southgate, who joked that he was risking “whatever reputation I have” by choosing Maguire.
“If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a higher level then 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.’
England have not beaten Italy since 1961 and are entering the game after three months of waiting to make up for that defeat against Hungary.
Southgate, who was taunted with chants of ‘you’ll be fired tomorrow’ by English fans in Molineux, says he expected nothing less than to face fierce criticism.
“No, I am the manager of England and you are judged purely on results, so after more than 30 years of football I know how it works with fans,” he added.
“The most important thing is that the players are together, the staff and I am supported by the people I work with.
“I’m my own biggest critic, I’m someone who will always carefully assess everything, no matter how well it went, and you don’t expect to lose 4-0 at home and not be criticized.”
And Southgate claims he is in no pain after being treated by home supporters that night, despite having the summer to live with the grievous defeat.
“No, I’m not in pain, there’s no point in worrying about how others might see you, because you can’t control that. There’s nothing you can do about that,” he said.
And he felt that lessons had already been learned from a poor Nations League campaign.
Southgate explained: “I’ve jeopardized certain decisions and you don’t win if you compromise. It was good for me to sharpen that focus again. I must be utterly ruthless.’
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