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Man United’s Maguire keeps England place after Southgate hit out at ‘joke’ criticizm of defender

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Out of favor at Manchester United and off the back of an own goal for England, Harry Maguire remains in Gareth Southgate’s plans ahead of next year’s European Championship.

The center back, who has spent the last year on the fringes of the United team, was named on Thursday in England coach Southgate’s squad for the upcoming games against Australia and Italy.

Maguire’s selection comes after Southgate hit out at criticizm of the $97 million defender following his own goal against Scotland last month.

“He’s been an incredible player for England in one of the most successful teams we’ve had,” the Three Lions coach said at the time. “We allow him to be open to that (criticizm)? It’s a joke. An absolute joke. It makes me livid.”

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Raheem Sterling has also been a key figure in England’s success under Southgate as part of the team that advanced to the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020. But having been absent from the national team since winning his 82nd cap at last year’s World Cup, there was no place for him again in the latest squad.

Southgate said he had not spoken to the Chelsea forward ahead of the squad announcement, adding “we’ve been happy with the wide players and the performances in the last four games.”

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Mason Mount is another regular to have been left out, despite returning from injury for United.

After scoring two hat tricks this season, Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins has been recalled and so has West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen.

Kalvin Phillips has kept his place despite limited game time at Manchester City and Jordan Henderson stays in the squad after his move to Saudi Arabian team Al-Ettifaq.

Bukayo Saka has also been called up, but is a doubt after limping out of Arsenal’s game against Lens in the Champions League on Tuesday.

“He’s still being assessed,” Southgate said. “So, everybody will monitor everything as we go forward.”

England could secure qualification for Euro 2024 this month in the game against Italy at Wembley.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer