England manager Gareth Southgate has said he will stay loyal to Harry Maguire despite another error-strewn display by the Manchester United captain on Monday evening.
Maguire retained his place in the starting line-up for the dead-rubber Nations League match against Germany at Wembley, having started the 1-0 defeat to Italy on Friday which relegated England from the top tier of the competition.
Some fans booed when Maguire's name was announced before kick off, and those who were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt would have been wavering by the end of a 3-3 draw after another unconvincing display.
Maguire has started just one of United's past six matches – a 1-0 Europa League defeat to Real Sociedad – but he remains in favour for his national team having played a key role in England reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final last summer.
But he was badly at fault as Germany took the lead early in the second half, giving the ball away to Jamal Musiala, then clumsily hacking him down to concede a penalty that Ilkay Gundogan converted past Nick Pope.
Maguire then lost the ball high up the pitch shortly afterwards, resulting in the counter-attack that ended with Kai Havertz making it 2-0 with a sublime finish.
England would fight back to lead 3-2 before Pope's error gifted Germany an equaliser, but not even a morale-boosting draw will deflect attention from the debate over Maguire as the World Cup fast approaches.
"I know everyone will focus on Harry, but there were some very important moments Harry delivered during the two matches," Southgate said in defence of the centre-back.
"That's always going to raise debate, but I think in these moments we've got to back our best and our most experienced players, unless we're in a situation where it's almost untenable and impossible to pick them."
While still searching for their first win in six matches after a run of three defeats and three draws, England's response to claim a point left Southgate pleased with his team's fighting spirit and he believes the performance will prove beneficial heading into the World Cup in November.
"As a group they have really come together this week. It has been a tough period for team but they have grown," he said.
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"To an extent we are always going to face pressure so we need to be exposed to pressure. We played a friendly against Ivory Coast in March and they went to 10 men and it became a non-event and we learnt nothing.
"This week we've learnt a huge amount. They've had to step forward and come together – it will benefit us in the long run."
Germany manager Hansi Flick took a similar stance when assessing his side's performance at Wembley. While England had a Nations League campaign to forget, Germany fared only slightly better, finishing third in Group A3 behind winners Italy and runners-up Hungary and collecting just one win to go with four draws and a defeat.
“There are a lot of positives we can take from the game,” Flick said. “But some negatives too that we will have to address.”