Wayne Rooney has named Manchester United captain Harry Maguire as one of his three guaranteed starters for England at the World Cup in Qatar.
Maguire has endured a torrid season with United and was booed by some England supporters during Tuesday’s friendly against the Ivory Coast at Wembley.
Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane, Declan Rice and Jack Grealish all expressed their support for Maguire after the match, which ended in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Three Lions.
England’s record goalscorer Rooney has also now given his backing to Maguire and expects the centre-back to one of the first names on the team-sheet in Qatar, along with Kane and Raheem Sterling.
“He has to play,” Rooney told The Sun.
“I know Gareth said if you’re not in good form then you won’t play for your country, but Harry Kane wasn’t in good form earlier in the season and nobody booed him or questioned why he’s playing.
“It’s clear he’s not in the best form for Manchester United… I don’t think any of them are at United.
“They’re all going through a difficult time, but for England he’s been incredible.
“For me, three players have to be on the team sheet every time England play; Harry Kane, Maguire and Raheem Sterling – they’re the three leaders in the team, the ones Gareth Southgate relies on.”
Rooney says he recently spoke with Maguire and fully appreciates the difficulties the defender is currently experiencing.
“I’ve been there. It’s never nice when you’re booed by your own fans,” Rooney added.
“Harry is a top lad and a top professional. I know Harry personally. I spoke to him not long ago. He’s a strong character and strong-minded.
“I’ve spoken to him a few times as a friend and we’ve had a general chat, but I’m not a mentor. I’m sure the people who were booing him are not real England fans.
“I don’t think England fans are concerned about his form for United as long as he’s doing well for England.”