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England beaten at home

Sports Desk || shiningbd

Published: 13:25, 15 October 2020   Update: 13:25, 15 October 2020
England beaten at home

Photo: Collected

Harry Maguire suffered a shambolic 31 minutes before he put himself out of his own misery as England lost to Denmark at Wembley - his premature departure prompting the question of whether he now needs a long break from the game.

Manchester United's 27-year-old captain cut a distracted and chaotic figure as he endured a personal nightmare, its conclusion with a red card carrying an air of inevitability from the moment he recklessly launched himself at Yussuf Poulsen to pick up an early yellow.

It was the start of a performance that was almost painful to watch - bad positioning, a suggestion of an injury and then amateurish control that led to the desperate lunge on Kasper Dolberg that not only injured the striker but sent Maguire down the tunnel.

Maguire looked totally devoid of confidence, a lost soul and an accident waiting to happen, which it eventually did.

It comes at the end of a period that looks to have taken its toll on Maguire and, sadly, leaves him looking like a defensive liability for club and country.

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Maguire's troubles started in August when he was given a suspended sentence of 21 months and 10 days in prison after he was found guilty of repeated bodily harm, attempted bribery, violence against public employees and insult after a trial on the Greek island of Syros.

He maintains his innocence and has lodged an appeal - which means a retrial and the conviction being set aside in the meantime - but it feels and looks like the weight of this incident and its public aftermath has carried over into the new season. This normally exuberant, combative character, who revelled in his 'man of the people' persona at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, looks troubled.

Maguire was always extravagantly priced at £80m but a player who is a solid and serviceable Premier League defender and has become one of England manager Gareth Southgate's most trusted squad members now looks hopelessly out of form.

He has cut a struggling figure as United's defence has been run ragged by Crystal Palace, Brighton and, of course, Tottenham in that 6-1 humiliation at Old Trafford.

And when referee Jesus Gil Manzano showed him the red card, Maguire resembled an individual who had hit rock bottom.

Harry Maguire sent off for England

England's men have received three red cards in a single calendar year for the first time ever

This was a performance from Maguire that was sending out distress signals from pretty much the first whistle. The control was poor, the discipline was worse, even the simplest of tasks - a pass, a clearance - looked an almighty struggle.

Maguire's display, in a footballing context, must be criticised, but it is clear his fragile form and what seems a confused mental approach to the game will need careful handling, not just by Southgate but, more importantly, by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United.

The defender looks like someone who might benefit from some time on the sidelines to gather his thoughts, clear his head and get back to something like the player and personality who had enough impact at Old Trafford after his move from Leicester City to be awarded the captain's armband.

It is a difficult balancing act because Maguire might not wish to be taken out of the line of fire and such are United's current struggles that Solskjaer may feel he needs his leader going in to battle for him.

What is clear is that he will now need more of the sympathy and support Solskjaer and United have given him so far.

Maguire's red card was a low point on a very indifferent night for England - the first time they have had two players sent off, with Chelsea defender Reece James dismissed for dissent after the final whistle.

It was characterised by another ultra-conservative team selection by Southgate based around three men at the back and Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips holding in midfield.

We are revisiting an old argument here, one had when a similarly cautious England played out a dire goalless draw in Copenhagen in early September.

The approach is understandable up to a point against the likes of Belgium, but what threats do Denmark possess that require such a defensive mentality?

As the game went on, Southgate still seemed very reluctant to release the handbrake, even taking the fact England were down to 10 men into account.

England probed towards the end in the face of Denmark's resilience but were doing it with striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who came off the bench, on the left flank and Jordan Henderson the chosen replacement for fellow midfielder Declan Rice late on.

Supporters of Aston Villa's Jack Grealish had real cause for complaint here as a player who showed against Wales that he has rare creative talent remained in his seat on the bench.

Everton's Calvert-Lewin is having a magnificent season as a goalscorer but in this situation he is not the man to pick a pass to unlock the Danes - he should be the man on the end of them.

Southgate will have his reasons for not using Grealish, but to those of us watching there seemed no obvious explanation for keeping him back as others went on.

It was a night of many questions for England and Southgate. There will need to be a braver approach than this when it comes to the real business end of a major tournament.

And for Maguire, it was a desperate experience he will want to forget in a hurry.