Danny Murphy insists England have a “bigger issue” than Gareth Southgate’s loyalty to Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire.
One of the big calls Southgate had to make coming into the World Cup was whether to start Maguire over other defenders after his poor run of form for Man Utd.
The centre-back has only started three Premier League matches under new United boss Erik ten Hag with Maguire criticised heavily by fans over the last season or two.
Maguire, who is yet to let England down when called upon, was given a start against Iran as the Three Lions got their World Cup campaign off to a flyer with a 6-2 win.
The Man Utd skipper was a threat in the opponent’s box, grabbing an assist, but was probably at fault for Iran’s first goal of the game before being substituted with blurred vision shortly after.
When asked if Southgate’s loyalty to Maguire could be an issue, Murphy told Lord Ping: “I think he will play the next game and loyalty towards players, generally, is a good thing. I think at club level and international level, cohesion and stability, the right partnerships, generally lead to better results.
“The bigger issue is that Gareth must feel that he doesn’t have an obvious replacement for Maguire, someone that can come in and be better than him. When I picked my first eleven, it was the same as Southgate’s with the only change being Ben White for Maguire because he’s been in sensational form for Arsenal, albeit playing at right back.
“There isn’t a stand-out candidate who is sitting on the bench that is impossible to leave out. If that was the case, then you could start thinking about why his loyalty overrides the obvious, but as it stands, in the last two tournaments that we’ve played and been successful in, he’s been one of our best players.”
On why England should follow the tactical blueprint trusted by Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, Murphy added: “When you play three in midfield, you generally play with one sitter and two in front or two sitters and one going forward. You should always be flexible in midfield otherwise you become too predictable.
“The best role for [Jude] Bellingham, in my opinion, is as one of the two in front of a holding player. [Declan] Rice holding, with Bellingham and another. I thought [Mason] Mount’s performance against Iran probably went a little bit under the radar.
“His pressing and work ethic was fantastic and his tidiness on the ball, keeping it moving, he’s a tremendous player. A lot of people are saying it would be better to put [Phil] Foden in there, [Jack] Grealish or [James] Maddison. I understand that train of thought because as players, they all offer you different things.
“I think Maddison, in terms of end product, is the best we have in that ten role. Mount is more of a midfielder than the others that we’ve mentioned.
“If you look at City and Liverpool, the two dominant teams of the last five years, the midfield three that play most of the time all have a tremendous work ethic and do the work of a midfielder rather than a forward playing in midfield.”