Together Forever: Harry Maguire And Gareth Southgate May Never Part

The Manchester United defender is in the England squad once again
10:00, 06 Sep 2023

Another international break, another debate over whether Harry Maguire should be in the England squad. Gareth Southgate retains his faith in a defender he has fielded in a World Cup semi final and a European Championship final. It seems to matter little to the England head coach that Maguire has played just once for Manchester United this season, as a substitute in their 3-1 defeat at Arsenal. No matter what happens to Maguire at Old Trafford, Southgate seems dead set on picking him.

In many ways, the Maguire situation echoes that of Jordan Henderson. The 33-year-old has just moved to Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League. It is a division that, a few ageing star names aside, is far below the standard of the Premier League. It is also a far worse league than La Liga, the Bundesliga or Serie A, who also contribute players to the squad. Yet Southgate has called up Henderson and intends to do so again in the future.


While the question marks over Henderson stem from his reduced platform and a poorer quality league, Maguire has no such excuse. He plays in the English top flight for arguably the most talked-about club in the country. Were he in electric form for United, his brilliance would be unavoidable. And yet, he comes nowhere close. When Ten Hag has a full complement to choose from, he ranks behind Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof in his manager’s thinking. There has even been times when Luke Shaw has been preferred in the left centre back berth despite being a full back by trade. While some fans’ jibes that Evans would even be favoured above him seem a tad crass, it is true that Maguire is way down the United pecking order.

So much so that the Red Devils actually accepted a £30 million bid from West Ham United for his services this summer. But Maguire himself proved to be an obstacle that the transfer could not overcome. He demanded a pay-off to leave the club, quoted at between £7 million and £15 million. Wherever the true figure lies, it was more than United were willing to countenance.


One could argue Maguire cut his nose off to spite his face here. West Ham just won the Europa Conference League and, with Declan Rice gone, was being primed for the Hammers captaincy. He would have gone from being a fringe player at Old Trafford to a vital part of what David Moyes is trying to achieve. Last season saw Maguire attempt to fight for his place in Ten Hag’s side. That led to just 16 Premier League appearances. The fact he is willing to take that risk again at the age of 30 may not bode well for his future.

Of course, if there was a real risk to his international career he may have reconsidered. Under other national head coaches, his scant appearances for the Red Devils would count against him. As would Henderson abandoning competitive European football for the untested Saudi game. But Southgate has always viewed the England side as more like a club management job. Despite Maguire’s travails at United, he sees no reason to “sell” just yet and welcome a more active defender into the side in Harry’s place.

And so the great debate will rage on. Barring a huge shift in Southgate’s thinking or an injury absence for Maguire, the player will appear in further England squads. He will do so with no consideration given to his club form or even a lack of game time at United. Maguire is trusted by Southgate and he can point to a track record as part of the most successful men’s Three Lions side in decades as reasoning for that. It won’t quiet the discontent but for now, Maguire’s place in an England shirt is safe.

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