Gareth Southgate has insisted England need an in-form Harry Maguire to give them the best chance of winning the World Cup, and held a private heart-to-heart with the defender hours after the final warm-up game against Germany.
The pair spoke almost two hours after the 3-3 draw at Wembley in which Maguire made two errors that resulted in goals that placed more scrutiny on England manager Southgate’s decision to keep faith with him.
Southgate confirmed that he will not see his squad in person again before England meet up for the World Cup in November and most of the players left Wembley before the 52-year-old completed his post-match media duties on Monday night.
But Maguire waited for Southgate to complete all of his interviews, so that he could have a private chat with his manager at just after 11pm in the area where coaches and cars pick up players from Wembley.
The pair chatted privately for around five minutes before shaking hands and saying their farewells. Despite the fact Maguire is out of form and out of favour at Manchester United, he is expected to be part of Southgate’s World Cup squad.
Maguire believes he will get opportunities due to rotation at United before the World Cup and is determined not to be distracted by all of the ‘noise’ around him.
Despite, by his own admission, staking his reputation on Maguire, Southgate insisted it is in England's best interests, and not just his own, for the player’s fortunes to change before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar.
“I know everybody says he’s important to me, he’s important to us,” said Southgate. “It’s us. It’s not me. Why do we pick him? Because he’s one of the players who gives us the best chance of winning. So really we should all be wanting a Harry Maguire that’s playing regularly and playing with confidence.
“That applies to, of course, quite a few players, but he’s the one that everything lands on which must be a tough space for him really. But he’s showing tremendous character.
“I think he has got the character to get over this because he’s a boy that has been from Sheffield United, to Hull City, he’s not one where everything has been smooth.
“Sometimes you get lads who, in the early part of their career, haven’t had to handle adversity and when it hits them, it’s harder to cope with. He’s like most of us really, in that he’s had lots of hurdles and that shapes your character.”
'Maguire has to go to the World Cup'
Maguire received a few boos from the Wembley crowd, but will have also heard his name sung loudly by a section of supporters and escaped without receiving any large-scale abuse.
But it remains to be seen whether or not the 29-year-old can start England’s first World Cup game against Iran on Nov 21 in Qatar if he barely plays for United between now and then.
Former England assistant-manager Gary Neville believes Maguire should go to the World Cup, but has advised him to seek professional help.
Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Neville said: “I would suggest he does what I did. I did go and see my doctor at Manchester United. I did go and get a psychologist and get help. You do need external help at times. I’ve been there. Every player has been there…. When I lost my confidence, I went and saw a psychologist to help me through those moments.
“He has to go to the World Cup. England haven’t got a massive pool of centre-backs for a start. Harry’s done very well for England and Gareth Southgate. Harry’s not got a lot of competition for those two or three centre-back spaces.”
England captain Harry Kane offered his support to Maguire, explaining that he battled through injury to aid the comeback and see out the closing stages of the draw “on one leg”.
'H [Maguire] had a pretty decent injury there at the end, where he played another five, 10 minutes, on almost one leg,” said Kane. “Great character from him, I'm really proud of him for that.”
United restart their Premier League campaign with a Manchester derby trip to neighbours City on Sunday, which is one of 13 games the Old Trafford club are scheduled to play before breaking for the World Cup.
Maguire’s only start for United since the embarrassing 4-0 thrashing by Brentford came in the single-goal Europa League defeat by Real Sociedad, which is why Southgate was so keen to give him 90 minutes against both Italy and Germany in England’s final World Cup warm-up games.
Confirming he will not have time to gather his squad together before the World Cup, Southgate said: “No, there just isn’t going to be time. They are going to have too many matches and we have to respect what they are doing with their clubs.
“Of course, we need to monitor our players as well as we possibly can. We always look to find out absolutely everything about them and a lot of liaison with the clubs on how they are physically and what’s going on. So we are not short of stuff to be getting on with.”