England boost as Man Utd & Man City defenders return to training ahead of squad announcement

Manchester United and Manchester City centre-backs were pictured in sessions on Thursday.

Fans of Manchester United, Manchester City and England were given a huge boost on Thursday with the return to training of two senior defenders.

Harry Maguire and John Stones both picked up hamstring injuries during the last international break when they were representing the Three Lions. Neither United nor City centre-back has played since club football resumed, with Maguire last featuring for the Red Devils on 15 September, just two days before Stones’ most recent display for the Premier League champions.

But Maguire and Stones were spotted in their respective club training images on Thursday at Carrington and the Etihad Campus. It’s not clear whether either defender will be involved in Premier League action this weekend, with City hosting Brighton & Hove Albion and United making the trip to London to face Chelsea. However, with the duo last playing in England’s 3-3 draw with Germany on 26 September, neither are expected to have the required fitness to start.

The news will also come as a relief to Gareth Southgate, who is set to announce his provisional World Cup squad on Friday. The England manager is expected to name a bumper 55-man roster, which will eventually be slimmed down to 26 before the team make the trip to Qatar next month.

Maguire and Stones have been integral to the Three Lions’ recent successes at the previous World Cup and Euro 2020, and will almost certainly be included. While Southgate will be delighted to choose the two defenders, there are major injury concerns surrounding the likes of Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kalvin Phillips in the weeks ahead of the World Cup.

Meanwhile, along with Maguire, United defender Brandon Williams was also pictured back at Carrington on Thursday. The youth graduate has not featured since Erik ten Hag’s appointment at Old Trafford and his return could help with the dearth of options at right-back for United.