Gareth Southgate believes being given the captain’s armband at Manchester United has been the making of Harry Maguire. The England centre-back was a colossus in the 4-0 win against Ukraine, even taking time out from his defensive duties to nod in the second goal from Luke Shaw’s free-kick.
It had been a difficult start to the tournament with an ankle ligament injury ending his season early and forcing Maguire to miss the knockout stages.
The international campaign this season did not that well, either. Having missed the first get-together in September while getting off-the-field convictions in Greece quashed, he was sent off in the Nations League qualifier against semi-final opponents Denmark.
However, the expectations that come with being handed the Manchester United captaincy following his £80million arrival from Leicester two years ago meant that he had no option but to bounce back from both set-backs.
“The beginning of this season was very difficult for Harry on a number of fronts so it’s brilliant to see how he has emerged with so much more confidence as a leader,” Southgate said,
“You can see that within the group. Being captain of Manchester United is a massive challenge, a massive responsibility but it’s brought a lot more out of him.
“You can see he’s more confident in himself and has gone on to another level not just on his game but on his maturity.”
However, Southgate did admit that he had invested some time in his centre-back after his two silly yellow-card challenges inside 31 minutes at Wembley was a major contributing factor to Denmark’s 1-0 win.
“We’re in touch with the players quite a lot when they’re not with us – as much as we can,” Southgate said.
“I try to respect clubs and not interfere. But there are obvious times when things have happened and they need more support.”