England manager Gareth Southgate has hit out at the ‘big agenda’ against defender Harry Maguire.
Maguire was dropped from the United XI following the season-opening defeats to Brighton and Brentford with summer signing Lisandro Martinez replacing him alongside .
United went onto win four games on the spin, including victories over Liverpool and Arsenal, with the new-look partnership at the back, leaving the club captain out in the cold under Erik ten Hag.
Having lost his place in the side and with his three starts for his club all ending in defeats this season, Maguire’s inclusion in the England squad was met with surprise with the 29-year-old starting Friday’s Nations League clash against Italy.
Southgate has kept his trust in the he former Leicester City defender, however, pointing to his key role in the England sides that reached the World Cup semi-final in 2018 and Euros final last summer.
‘They are probably a bit undercooked in terms of the number of matches they’ve had,’ Southgate told Channel 4, discussing players who have not been playing 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 known a player receive the sort of treatment that he has.”
‘He’s been a crucial part of us getting to a World Cup semi-final, he was named in the Team of the Tournament at the Euros.
‘He knows what we think of him. He’s been, basically across that period, our most important defender.’
Southgate also defended Maguire’s inclusion in the squad earlier this week, stressing the importance of having experienced players in the team and naming the United skipper England’s ‘most dominant aerial centre-back’.
‘You always have to back your judgement and we feel 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 a different consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition in that way.
‘He is our most dominant aerial centre-back. Him and John [Stones] are incredible with the ball.’
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