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Gareth Southgate says Harry Maguire’s lack of game time is “not an ideal situation”, but the under-fire Manchester United captain retains the England boss’ support and belief.

The world’s most expensive defender is currently out of favour at Old Trafford, having been put on the bench by Eric Ten Haag after losing the first two games of the season.

Maguire’s only start since then came in the Europa League loss to Real Sociedad, and he came on in the 89th minute against Tiraspol Sheriff last Thursday.

Southgate added the 29-year-old to his England squad earlier in the day, although he did nothing – one of several similar issues he was dealing with, which he likened to England rugby The situation that coach Eddie Jones deals with.

Gallagher Premier League champions Saracens were relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season for salary cap violations, meaning some key international players had to be traded in the second tier.

“I just read Eddie Jones’ book and he has a similar situation with the Saracens players,” Southgate said.

“Even in retrospect, he felt they were his best players, and while they weren’t mature enough, they would still be better than players who weren’t at that level.

England’s Harry Maguire during a training session at St George’s Park (Mike Egerton/Pennsylvania)

“So I don’t think there are a lot of players who are not at the level of the game right now.

“Look, obviously, it’s not an ideal situation. You want your best players to play regularly so they’re in good shape physically and mentally.

“But he’s an important player for us. I think it’s important to support our best players.

“The squad we’ve chosen, there’s quite a number of players you could say we might be left out right now, but I think we want to bring this group together and get them involved and make them feel like they’re part of it.

“But they also know that for some of them they need to play more often because now we’re only a few weeks away from pre-season, so if they have 90 minutes of fitness, that’s fine.

“In another seven or eight weeks, things do start to get more complicated.”

Asked if he had spoken to Maguire about his current situation, Southgate said: “I don’t think there is any need to think differently about him and other players.

“I tried to pick them up individually, this time it’s a bit complicated because we have 28, so I’m going to get there!

“Look, he knows he’s at a big club with a big transfer fee and is the captain of the club, so I think that’s why people are paying more attention to him.

“But he’s focused on training every day and getting himself back into the team.”

All 46 of Maguire’s appearances have come under Southgate, who featured prominently during England’s 2018 World Cup semi-final and last year’s European Championship final.

“I think, look, you always have to support your judgment, we think he’s an important player,” Southgate said ahead of Friday’s Nations League Euro 2020 game against Italy.

Harry Maguire of England

Harry Maguire is one of the stars of England’s run to the Euro 2020 final (Nick Potts/Pennsylvania)

“If we think there is an experienced player ready to step in and play on top of him, then there are different considerations, there will be a different level of competition in certain positions.

“He’s our most dominant central defender in the air. He and John (Stones) are really unbelievable in possession – they put a lot of pressure on the team in the games we play because we It’s not always possible to have midfield pivot players who can move the game forward.

“It means that our centre-backs are under enormous pressure in possession and these two are as good as anyone in world football.”