By Associated Press
Harry Maguire has been dropped by Manchester United despite being its club captain and the most expensive defender in soccer history.
The big question now: How will that affect his place in England’s team ahead of the World Cup?
England coach Gareth Southgate has previously said he finds it difficult to select players in his squad if they aren’t featuring for their clubs. And Maguire only has to look at some of his teammates at United — Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Luke Shaw — to see Southgate often has been true to his word.
Maguire could prove to be a different case.
First, Maguire might now be behind Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane in the pecking order of center backs at United but he will still get minutes — perhaps most weeks in the lead-up to the World Cup — because of the team’s involvement in the Europa League, when manager Erik ten Hag will likely rotate. That gives Maguire at least six matches, injury-permitting, if not more should Martinez and Varane have any fitness issues themselves.
Then there’s Southgate’s options at center back, which aren’t plentiful.
There’s John Stones, who isn’t exactly a guaranteed starter at Manchester City given the Premier League champions now have five central defenders in their squad. Conor Coady recently left Wolverhampton, where he had lost his place, to join struggling Everton, and Tyrone Mings was dropped by Aston Villa at the start of the season only to recently regain his place because of injuries.
Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi and AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori have been in and out of England’s squads over the past year but neither is currently a player Southgate can rely on.
Maguire, then, might be safe for the time being, especially since he’s been a regular under Southgate during the coach’s England tenure. After all, it was only 14 months ago that Maguire was selected in the team of the tournament for the European Championship by UEFA’s technical observers.
His stock at United has plummeted since then, though, with his last start seeing him look beleaguered in the team’s 4-0 loss at Brentford that sparked a crisis at England’s biggest club. Ten Hag has partnered Varane and Martinez in every game since and United won four in a row, conceding only one goal.
Maguire, who left Leicester for United for 80 million pounds (then $97 million) — a world-record fee for defender — in 2019, was on the bench again in the 3-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday and came on in the 80th minute as a replacement for Martinez. Almost immediately, Maguire collected a yellow card for a clumsy foul, and looked shaky throughout his brief time on the field.
Central defense is suddenly a huge concern for Southgate 10 weeks ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
Still, expect Maguire’s name to be there when the next England squad is named for Nations League matches against Italy and Germany at the end of the month.