England boss Gareth Southgate has condemned the “ridiculous treatment” of Harry Maguire, saying the criticism the defender has faced is “a joke”.
He helped England reach the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the final of Euro 2020, but has struggled for first-team football at Manchester United.
“I’ve never known a player treated the way he is,” said Southgate.
“He’s been an absolute stalwart for us in the second most successful England team for decades – he’s been an absolutely key part of that.
“I’ve talked about the importance of our senior players, he’s been crucial among that.
“Every time he goes on the field, the resilience he shows is absolutely incredible. He’s a top player and we’re all with him and our fans were brilliant with him.”
Maguire was stripped of the United captaincy this summer and linked with a move away from the club, but remained at Old Trafford after injuries to fellow defenders.
He made his first appearance of the season on 3 September as a second-half substitute in United’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal.
Against Scotland, Maguire came on as a substitute at half-time and was mocked by the home fans before he scored a 67th-minute own goal.
“From a Scotland fans’ point of view I get it. I have absolutely no complaints with what they did,” added Southgate.
“But it’s a consequence of ridiculous treatment of him for a long period of time.
“It’s a joke. Not by the Scottish fans but by our own commentators, pundits or whatever it is. They’ve created something that’s beyond anything I have ever seen.
“I think our fans recognised, ‘OK there might be a bit of heat from our own supporters but we’re not going to have others getting into him’.”
‘Never let England down yet ridiculed constantly’
Former England winger Chris Waddle and forward Michael Owen also agreed Maguire was being targeted unfairly.
“Give him credit, I didn’t see him give the ball away. The own goal was the only thing he did wrong,” Waddle told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“It would’ve been ideal to go abroad and play football for a year, then when he comes back to England he would get half [of the criticism] he gets now and it’s ridiculous what [criticism] he gets now.”
On X, Owen posted: “I’ve long wondered why Harry Maguire gets so much abuse and I’m pleased Gareth Southgate has said what he’s said.
“I don’t know him that well personally but he’s a very good player and he appears to be a decent person. He’s never let England down yet he seems to be ridiculed constantly.”
Maguire ended the game with the England captain’s armband after Harry Kane, who had scored England’s third goal after earlier strikes from Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham, was substituted in the 84th minute.
Southgate again praised Maguire’s character for how he reacted after the game.
“He’s gone and spoken to the media as that’s the sort of lad he is,” added Southgate. “He’s fronted up as he always does, again enormous credit to his character.
“He’s great, we’ve had a big win. He’s been a big part of that.”
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‘The most vilified England defender we’ve ever seen’
Former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha believes criticism of players has got worse since he made his debut in 2004.
“The things that are in the middle don’t get said too much, but the things that land on the extremes get said very often,” he told BBC Newsbeat. “And things sort of snowball, I think we can see with some players over the last few years. Before you know it, you’re almost treated like a parody.
“He can do something well now and it serves no purpose because it doesn’t prove a point.
“He’s probably the most vilified England defender that we’ve ever seen.”
Manchester United fan Zoe Hodges also told BBC Newsbeat she “feels sorry” for Maguire.
“In a world where we are so focused on mental health and being kind to each other, he gets a lot of unnecessary abuse and criticism online and from the pundits as well,” she said. “As a player he is struggling and it’s not great to see as a person. He’s been off it for a while for club and country but I do feel for him.”