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Southgate says Maguire is one of best ball-playing defenders in WORLD as England boss ‘puts reputation on line’ for star

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GARETH SOUTHGATE is ready to put his reputation on the line for Harry Maguire. Defiant England boss Southgate and captain Harry Kane gave huge backing to the out-of-favour Manchester United captain, who has not started in the Premier League since the 4-0 humiliation at Brentford on August 13.

Maguire is set to start against Italy in the Nations League on Friday with the Three Lions needing a win to avoid relegation into League B which could affect the team's seeding for the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

Asked if he is showing too much faith in Maguire, Southgate said: “Whatever reputation I have, I’m putting it on there. "You always have to back your judgement and we feel he is an important player. “If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a level above him there would be a different consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition in that way. “He is our most dominant aerial centre-back. "Him and John Stones are incredible with the ball – the amount of pressure they have taken for the team in tournaments we have played because we don’t always have that midfield pivot player who can progress the game. “It means there is a huge amount more pressure on our centre backs to use the ball well and those two are as good as any in world football at doing that.” Since the Brentford thrashing, Maguire, 28, has played just 101 minutes under new United boss Erik ten Hag with a sub appearance in the 3-1 home win against Arsenal plus two Europa League outings. HOW TO GET FREE BETS ON FOOTBALL Southgate added: “Look, clearly, it’s not an ideal situation.

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