The real reason Man Utd's Harry Maguire still gets picked for England - it's nothing to do with 'favourites'

The Manchester United defender continues to feature prominently for the Three Lions
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Harry Maguire, bless him, attracts calamity like a Looney Tunes antagonist. Even when he is doing nothing wrong - walking away from incident, minding his own business - misfortune seeks him out with the flattening cruelty of a cartoon anvil. On Saturday evening, with England mere minutes into a showpiece friendly against Brazil, the one they affectionately call Slabhead took a football squarely to the back of his magnificent bonce after Kyle Walker, under no pressure and for reasons that will remain inexplicable beyond the inevitable heat death of the universe, tried to clear his lines from directly behind his centre-half.

On another day, the befuddlement could quite easily have led to one of the great tragicomic goals of our time, and for the relentlessly scrutinised Maguire, it no doubt would have been used as yet another stick with which his international credibility is beaten - unfairly or otherwise. You see, there are still those who consider the defender's continued inclusion in Gareth Southgate's plans as some kind of affront to the footballing gods, supporters who subscribe fully to his meme-ified vilification, and who believe he should be nowhere near an England squad.

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Now, make no mistake, there are reasons to be doubtful of Maguire; his lack of pace can be problematic, and there are plenty of times when he causes hearts to leap from rib cages in nauseating fright with his propensity for the perilous. But there are also reasons that Southgate continues to show his faith in a player who has established himself as a stalwart of his managerial tenure.

For one thing, Maguire is generally dependable in an England shirt. Rarely does he commit the kind of faux pas that have pockmarked his form for Manchester United in recent seasons, and often he is as tidy a performer as those around him.

But then there are the logistical justifications too. Speaking as recently as last year, Southgate has made it clear that he feels a certain need to stick with players he knows he can trust, rather than those who may be bathing in the warm glow of a hot streak of form. Explaining his thinking, the Waistcoated One said: "It's impossible [to just pick players who are playing]. We've got to pick our best players where possible, and then there's a balance between going for a certain level of player who isn't playing as regularly, or a level that's physically fit and doing well.

"It's interesting talking to other coaches of national teams that they feel the same, and they feel the same of picking your best players, so long as they can get to a reasonable physical level."

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Some will bemoan such an approach as a brazen abandonment of meritocracy, but there is method in Southgate's madness. International managers are afforded such brief periods of time to work with their squads that an element of cohesion is practically essential. To persevere with players he knows he can trust, even in spite of their rough patches, is to slowly but surely build a functional unit, rather than a disparate group of individuals. And, in fairness to the national boss, he has shown that there are limits to his patience too; Kalvin Phillips was a notable omission from his latest squad, despite England's relatively limited options in the centre of midfield at the present moment in time.

And when all is said and done, despite the protestations of the naysayers and the keyboard warriors, Southgate knows what he is doing and he wants what is best for his team. If he did not suspect that Maguire, or anybody else for that matter, was up to the task of representing the Three Lions, he would not select them. We're not talking about a playground kickabout here; the England manager does not pick his side based on favouritism or personal affiliation, but rather, which talents he wholeheartedly believes can carry their country to a first trophy since 1966. Maguire, like it or not, is one such name.