Gareth Southgate makes Harry Maguire claim as Man Utd defender included in World Cup squad

Gareth Southgate praised Harry Maguire after including him in his England World Cup squad, and explained his reasons behind the decision.

Gareth Southgate has claimed Harry Maguire is one of England’s ‘best centre-backs’ following his inclusion in the Three Lions’ World Cup squad.

The Manchester United captain has struggled for game-time in recent weeks due to a hamstring injury he sustained playing in England’s most recent game. In fact, since the 3-3 draw with Germany on 26 September, Maguire has played just 142 minutes at club level.

Coupled with his poor form over the last 18 months, Maguire was one of the more eye-catching names called up to Southgate’s 26-man squad, although it’s evidently a selection the England manager has no doubts over.

“He’s one of our best centre-backs,” Southgate said on Thursday. “We know within the squad that we have a lot of players who have been at tournaments, know the level, know what’s required. We’ve got other players who are playing well and are in form right at this moment and we have to balance all of that when picking our team.”

Southgate was also quizzed on the fitness levels of Maguire and, in answering the question, revealed he feels England’s younger centre-backs have not done enough to dislodge former Leicester City man from his squad.

“Physically we have had really good communication with all the clubs on the loads of all of the players because we have to pick that up immediately on Wednesday when we see them on the training pitch,” explained the Three Lions boss.

“We needed to know, those who are playing, what’s their load? Those who are playing less regularly, some have had an unbelievably intense schedule, some less so. We are picking up various fitness levels and we need to get that right on the training pitch.

“We’ve picked our more experienced defenders and we think at this moment in time, the younger ones have got some really good qualities, but we don’t think they’ve done enough to push the more experienced ones out. “We think the tournament that we are going into, and the level of the matches, that needed to be the pecking order.”