IAN LADYMAN: Harry Maguire put in a reasonable display in England’s 1-0 loss to Italy
IAN LADYMAN: Harry Maguire put in a decent display in England’s 1-0 loss to Italy… he still has to fight for a place at Manchester United but is far from Gareth Southgate’s biggest problem
- England lost 1-0 to Italy at the San Siro in the Nations League on Friday night
- They are winless in their last five games as they prepare for the World Cup
- Despite his lack of game time recently, Harry Maguire put in a solid show
On the giant screen at half-time at dear old outdated San Siro, it simply read Grazie Milano. Thank you Milan. Why? In order to get? To be? Not to complain?
Both could have been appropriate. For an awful long time this was a really bad game of international football.
Up in the gods behind one goal, however, something else happened, while the players from England and Italy had their break water. England supporters sang in support of Harry Maguire.
England lost 1-0 to Italy at the San Siro in the Nations League on Friday night
It has been a while since the English defender has heard anything like this. His recent career with Manchester United has been such that he must have stopped reading the reviews a long time ago.
With his country it has generally been different. Maguire didn’t play well for United ahead of last summer’s European Championship, but he did for Gareth Southgate during the tournament.
At the moment he is not playing football for United at all. The new manager Erik ten Hag has dropped him. But Southgate continues to be loyal – admitting on the eve of this game that he has no better options – and here in Milan he was at least partially rewarded.
Harry Maguire put in a solid display at the heart of England’s defense against Italy
Once again, England didn’t play well here and their World Cup chances continue to dwindle as winter approaches.
Five games without a win. Only one goal – a penalty kick – was scored. These are desperate things in the context of what has gone before under Southgate.
But England, with Maguire in the middle of a three-man defence, only conceded the one goal, and it was a very good one that came virtually out of nowhere.
After a shaky start, Maguire had an OK night. Certainly, when Southgate assesses his side’s problems ahead of Monday’s game against Germany, the performance of his back three will not be near the top of an extension of the list.
The early stages of Maguire’s night could have been taken straight from his United lowlights reel. It has been a lack of conviction and an inability to make good decisions that has characterized his football when he has been given the opportunity to play in the Premier League. At his best, Maguire defends with assurance, relying as much on instinct as discipline. But he hasn’t been like this for a while, and here he was brooding in the opening moments.
Gareth Southgate will have much bigger problems to think about ahead of the winter
Italy right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo was offside when he ran through in just the second minute to shoot low at Nick Pope. But Maguire didn’t know that as he struggled desperately in his opponent’s wake, unable to get an illegal hold on the Italian’s shirt as he raced past him and away.
Minutes later, Maguire was flicked in the air at the far post by Gianluca Scamacca and the header came back off the crossbar. If the chance had come, Maguire might not have recovered.
As it was, despite being outmuscled again by Scamacca just before the quarter-hour mark, Maguire was handed an opportunity by Italy to grow into his first meaningful start since United slumped to a 4-0 defeat at Brentford in the second weekend of the Premier League. season.
Mancini’s Italy was poor. The home side started well but failed to maintain any kind of regular intensity. Italy’s world has fallen apart a bit since they were crowned European champions 14 months ago, and the most generous thing you can say about them here is that they looked like a team in transition.
Harry Maguire will still try to force his way back into Erik ten Hag’s United team
Still, their failure to put any kind of regular pressure on Maguire was surprising. Maybe they don’t watch TV in Italy, but it was as if Mancini’s players were unaware of the struggles Maguire has endured recently.
It was as if they didn’t know they were playing a defender out of touch and out of real time. Corners and set-pieces – of which there were many under the supervision of a very fastidious referee – were aimlessly directed by Italy. Theoretically, everything should have fallen on Maguire’s head. But so little did Maguire actually manage to grow into this game.
England will have to be better than this in Qatar. They will need to be better against Germany if they are to have any chance of beating their first good team since they got Denmark in the EC semi-finals. Broadly speaking, there is a rather unpleasant feeling that time is running out.
It could also get worse. It was OK to play Maguire here as his United exile came recently.
But if Ten Hag refuses to move, can Southgate play him in a World Cup? It seems a bit difficult to think like that. Yet the Maguire conundrum is a long way from England’s most pressing problem.