Former England player Paul Merson thinks it was the right decision for Gareth Southgate to select Harry Maguire for England duty, though Manchester United team-mate Luke Shaw did not get the same treatment.
England come up against Italy and Germany in the Nations League later this month. And Southgate selected his 28-man squad for the matches earlier this week.
He recalled Eric Dier amid the Tottenham defender’s return to form under Antonio Conte. Brentford striker Ivan Toney received his maiden call-up after scoring five goals in his first six Premier League outings.
Southgate had to leave Manchester United star Marcus Rashford out due to injury. Jadon Sancho was also left out, although his omission had nothing to do with fitness. Both Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes think the winger should be in the squad.
Maguire, in contrast, did make the cut. That is despite him losing his starting place recently, as Erik ten Hag prefers to use Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane at centre-back.
Merson has backed Southgate over the decision to include Maguire. However, he was less positive when it came to fellow Red Devils defender Shaw.
During an appearance on Sky Sports, Merson said (via Manchester Evening News): “Not with Harry Maguire I wasn’t [surprised]. I think he’s a big part of the England squad, the way they play and with Gareth.
“I was shocked with the Luke Shaw one, if I’m being honest. The amount of full-backs we have in this country and talented full-backs at that.
Merson ‘shocked’ by Southgate’s Luke Shaw selection
“I was shocked with that, but not the Harry Maguire one.”
Merson continued: “I don’t think there’s a lot of panic but if Harry Maguire doesn’t get in the United team come November then there’s going to be a major worry for Gareth Southgate.
“In a way, he should’ve brought some players in that he might have to go to because you can’t go three months without playing football then play international football, especially in the heat they’re going to be playing in.”
While Maguire is currently out of favour at Old Trafford, Southgate trusts him and will likely give him some game time against Italy. Plus, the former Leicester man has rarely let England down, no matter what is going on at his club.
Merson’s criticism of the Shaw selection makes sense. The left-back has struggled this term and is now behind Tyrell Malacia in Ten Hag’s pecking order.
Malacia is a 23-year-old with no prior experience playing in a top-five European league. So Shaw losing his place to the Dutchman does not bode well.
Southgate likes to use Kieran Trippier on the left side of defence, while he can also rely on Ben Chilwell now the Chelsea man is back from injury.
Perhaps Southgate should have left Shaw at home and gone with Trippier and Chilwell as his left-backs. This would have saved a place for Sancho in attack.
Alternatively, the manager could have given another full-back an opportunity. Ryan Sessegnon and Kyle Walker-Peters are two potential options.
Meanwhile, Man Utd should have signed Ivan Toney this summer, according to a former striker – who can now see a move to Chelsea materialising.