In his final column for Sky SportsPaul Merson says Harry Maguire has never let England down, as he defended the Manchester United defender after the criticism and ridicule he faced this week.
Maguire, who was a first-half substitute in England’s 3-1 win over Scotland on Tuesday, was booed by Hampden Park fans every time he touched the ball and scored an own goal in the second half.
The treatment of Manchester United defender ‘furious’ Gareth Southgate prompted him to brand it an ‘absolute joke’ and the England manager blamed the actions of ‘people in our country’ for Scotland fans jumping on his back.
Maguire has also spoken out, claiming he can handle all the criticism coming his way after a difficult night against Scotland, adding that any focus and pressure he can take from his team-mates is a positive.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports, here’s the Magic Man’s take on a topic that has been making all the headlines this week…
Maguire has never let England down
Harry Maguire is a top player, he plays at a really high level and plays for his country. He’s getting abused by people who aren’t fit to tie his shoes, if we’re being honest.
At the time, I attacked him a bit when he went to Manchester United, but I really respect him as a player and what he did, especially at international level. He has never let England or Gareth Southgate down.
Against Scotland, he scored an own goal and of course he would have liked to avoid that, but that’s just his luck at the moment. Every little bug is checked for days and days
However, after his own goal he did well. He never gave the ball away once against Scotland. His mental toughness and ability to play under a lot of pressure and scrutiny is outstanding.
Southgate trusts Maguire. We are not blessed with other options
Should Gareth have come out and defended Maguire in this way? I’m not sure about that.
Maguire is old enough and old enough to deal with what comes his way, but perhaps Gareth felt he had to do something. He wanted to draw a line in the sand because he would keep getting picked up.
It’s not like we’re blessed with two central defenders at the moment. John Stones is injured. Lewis Dunk and Marc Guehi have played well in the last two weeks, while Levi Colwell is yet to feature in international matches.
There is also not much time now before the Euro. Southgate will not have the opportunity to give the new players as much international caps and the necessary experience he feels they need before a major tournament.
Southgate trusts Maguire, who has been a pivotal figure for him.
This is the game. Gareth knows it. As a player, if he was tearing up Aston Villa and someone else was selected for England, he would be furious. But as a manager, you have to trust the players. The same applies to Gareth, Jordan Pickford and others. They have done a job for him and he is showing loyalty once again.
Maguire has joined Southgate’s best team
Why doesn’t Gareth choose him? He never let him down with England.
I can understand it if Kalvin Phillips isn’t called up, for example. He does not play for Manchester City. He doesn’t really play for England if you’re picking their best team.
But with Harry, he is part of the best team in England under Southgate.
He helped them reach the World Cup semi-finals, the European Championship final, the World Cup quarter-finals where they lost on penalties, etc. He was in Gareth’s World Cup squad.
Analysis: Southgate ready to continue with Maguire
Rob Dorsett from Sky Sports News:
Maguire has become a caricature of disaster in the eyes of many people in and around football, and his manager Gareth Southgate has had enough, plain and simple. I have rarely seen an England manager so lively as he was when he spoke to me in the mixed box at Hampden Park last night. His fatherly instincts came out again. We’ve seen that with the younger players in the team in the past but last night he was one of the senior players who looked to protect them.
I don’t think the England fans criticized Harry Maguire or made fun of him, on the contrary, they were chanting his name. But the point Southgate is making is the criticism Maguire has taken from pundits, the media and social media has created this caricature of disaster that is fair game for opposition fans to experience.
I have a feeling that Gareth Southgate will go all out here and become more stubborn and continue to pick Harry Maguire and continue to play Harry Maguire even if the noise around it is growing against the idea of playing for England.
To put that in context, Maguire scored an own goal last night and was unlucky. It can happen to any player. He played very well for the rest of his 45 minutes, his positional play was good, he didn’t give the ball away, however, even on our Sky Sports website and app, we gave him a 4/10, two lower than everyone else. . The vast majority of England players scored 7 or 8 out of 10.
No one is wrong, it is a personal matter and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but Southgate is fed up with opinions that he believes are misleading and which are clearly being directed at Harry Maguire.
Should Maguire leave Manchester United?
It’s as if there was a conversation between Harry and Gareth. He must have been given assurances about his place in England if he stayed at Manchester United. There must have been a conversation and in the end, he didn’t want to go to West Ham.
I thought West Ham would be a good fit for Maguire.
I’ve spoken in the past about the way United play, their defense plays up front and that doesn’t particularly suit Harry. I thought West Ham was a good move for him. They sit a little deeper and he’s not the fastest in the world, so he could have felt more comfortable under David Moyes.
Should he move? Maguire will have his reasons for not doing so, but football is a funny old game. An injury or two changes things completely for him at Old Trafford. For example, who would have thought that Maguire would have partnered with Jonny Evans at the heart of Manchester United’s defense against Arsenal in the second half?
You never know what’s around the corner.
Is Maguire’s position a distraction for England?
I don’t think it is him. They are essentially qualified for next summer’s European Championships. They would be there in Germany again, and Maguire was a regular in Southgate’s team.
What is the problem? Look at England’s record under Gareth, it’s amazing compared to what we’ve done in the recent past.
Gareth has a strong personality. He knows his opinion and will not back down from it.
Maguire will be in England’s next squad, and the next one, all the way to the Euros. We just have to let Gareth get on with the job.
It’s not an easy task at the best of times, but he did it well and we have to let him continue.
Maguire is one of his main men and that’s not going to change because of some booing and jeering chants.