Gareth Southgate insisted Harry Maguire will bounce back after the defender’s dismal start to the season took another turn for the worse when he received an early red card during England’s 1-0 defeat to Denmark in the Nations League.
Maguire’s form has dipped since his court case in Greece and the pressure on the Manchester United centre-back increased after he was shown two yellow cards inside 31 minutes against Denmark at Wembley, forcing Southgate to field questions about his team’s growing indiscipline on and off the pitch.
It was a wretched night for England, who finished with nine men for the first time in their history after Reece James received a red card for dissent after the final whistle.
Denmark went second in the group thanks to a Christian Eriksen penalty, converted after a Jordan Pickford error led to Kyle Walker being penalised for a soft foul, and Southgate was criticised for leaving Jack Grealish on the bench. Inevitably, though, it was Maguire who drew the focus after two rash tackles led to the 27-year-old’s first-half dismissal.
“He’s getting a lot of stick thrown his way and he’s big enough to deal with that,” Southgate said. “He’s got our support and I know his club will be the same. We have total belief in him. He’s been getting all sorts for a while – from some people who should know better.
“In these periods you learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about other people. You learn who’s there for you. He’ll be a better player and a stronger man for it. To go down to 10 men is costly for the team. But we back him. He showed on Sunday why we think so much of him with his performance against Belgium.”
Southgate, who admitted that it will be tough for England to reach the Nations League Finals by winning in Belgium next month, is not planning to take Maguire out of the firing line. He’ll want to play football,” England’s manager said. “The best place for him to be is on the pitch.”
Maguire’s red card followed Walker’s in last month’s win over Iceland and Southgate admitted that his side must wise up after a spate of incidents on and off the pitch. “We have got to learn from it because historically, 10 men in tournaments, you are out,” he said. “Of course there have been things off the field which haven’t been right.”
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