England manager Gareth Southgate has told Erik ten Hag that Harry Maguire is better than Raphael Varane and has backed the 29-year-old to maintain his place at the heart of the Red Devils’ defence next season.
Maguire has been a permanent figure in Southgate’s backline and is in the squad for the upcoming Nations League fixtures. There is expected to be fierce competition for a starting spot with AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori and Manchester City ace John Stones also called up.
United have had a torrid season with Maguire often taking the brunt of the criticism, casting doubt over his position for the national team. But Southgate reckons everything will change when Ten Hag stamps his mark at Old Trafford.
He said: “There’s obviously a big change around at Manchester United and that’s going to affect everything. For me, he’s still their best centre-back – I’m sure the new manager will watch the games back and have his own view.
“For us, with all our data across the season, he’s been the same. Although the perception is that he is at a certain level, he’s still among our top two or three. The fact is that Harry and John have been our best pairing.”
Maguire was booed by England fans during the last international break and Southgate took aim at supporters to defend his man.
“I think it was right to make the point,” Southgate explained. “I didn’t understand how a player – who hadn’t even kicked a ball in the game and who has been one of England’s best players for over four years – it was hard to quantify what he had done when there are boos when his name is read out.
“I didn’t understand that. I spoke to Harry briefly after the game but he kind of got on with it.”
Maguire’s United team-mate Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho have been left out of the latest England squad but that does not mean their hopes of making the World Cup squad are completely over.
“They can get back because there’s enough games at the beginning of next season for people to play their way in,” Southgate said. “But, of course, it’s more difficult, the closer we get.
“They have to start playing well for their club. Neither of them have really played at the end of the season.
“Playing for England is a consequence of what you’re doing for your club and you’ve got to get that bit right.”