'Can't really mock him' - Ex-Leeds United star comes to defence of Manchester United man
and live on Freeview channel 276
The much-loved Leeds-born midfielder sat through half an hour of questioning by journalists on Thursday afternoon as England prepare to face world champions France in the World Cup quarter-finals. Phillips answered on a range of topics, including the squad’s reaction to the break-in at Raheem Sterling’s Surrey home whilst away with the squad in Qatar and the recent death of a migrant worker during the group stage, to more light-hearted discussion points such as which players he would start, bench and sell in a hypothetical managerial situation.
Phillips was also asked by a French reporter his verdict on Man United centre-back Harry Maguire and the ‘mockery’ he has received from rival fans, as well as England supporters who believe he should not start for the national team. The 27-year-old Manchester City midfielder believes criticism for Maguire is ‘undeserved’, lauding him as an important member of Gareth Southgate’s England group.
"I know Harry Maguire’s not played as much football this season as he probably would have liked and he does get a lot of stick, which I think is very undeserved,” Phillips began.
"I think he’s a top professional and a great footballer and all you have to do is watch England in major tournaments and when he plays for Manchester United, I think, he's one of the best defenders and I think for England he’s been one of the top defenders for a long time and especially in tournament level.
"He's always been that player that when we've got set pieces or when we need to block or when anybody needs to make a challenge, he's always the first one to do it. And he's always the first one to get his head to the ball. Obviously, he’s scored some very important goals as well.
"Because, he's been obviously mocked quite a lot the past few years, I think he's just the first one to go to if anything bad happened in the England team, he’d be the first one for anything to be said about.
"It's very undeserved. And, like I said, I think if you look at the major tournaments he’s played in and how well he's done then, you can't really mock him because he's been unbelievable,” Phillips finished.
England face France in their World Cup quarter-final contest on Saturday evening where Maguire is expected to start. Phillips is in contention, but did reveal defensive midfield lynchpin Declan Rice has returned to training on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session through illness.