International

Southgate backs United players' character

2016-11-08 15:00
Gareth Southgate (Getty)

London - England interim manager Gareth Southgate has spoken out in favour of Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling after Jose Mourinho appeared to question their character.

Manchester United manager Mourinho on Sunday said that there is a difference between players who are willing to play despite injury and "the ones that a little pain can make a difference."

Neither Shaw nor Smalling were mentioned by Mourinho after United's 3-1 win over Swansea City, but the pair said they were unavailable for the game.

Southgate said there is "obviously something wrong" with Shaw and Smalling as he named his squad for games against Scotland and Spain that did not include the two United defenders.

"It's a difficult one because I don't know the reason for the comments Jose's made," Southgate said.

"I don't know Chris well, but that wouldn't be my impression, having worked with him," he said after being asked whether either might be acting unprofessionally.

"Luke I know well and Luke's had a really tough injury [a broken leg]. I think very often it's easy to look from the outside or to make judgements on people without knowing them really, really well."

"If Luke wasn't fit to play yesterday [Sunday] and he was with us in September under Sam Allardyce and was feeling problems with the leg, there's clearly something [wrong]."

"After an injury as severe as that, we've got to handle that with care as well. It's a difficult balance to find but that's where we have to trust our medical teams."

He said international duties were a priority for English players.

"I think players want to play for England. I have not seen any player who didn't want to play for England."

"There have been players that haven't played as much, when I was playing, that maybe playing for England was a bit too much for them, but Luke's played with us right through, Chris has had a lot of games for England, so I don't think that is the situation for them."

"I think that they have got a moment with their club where they are not fit, and that's ruled them out for us this time."

England play Scotland in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Saturday and face Spain in a friendly at the same venue on Wednesday next week.

Mourinho's comments might well cause division among the squad, especially between himself and the mentioned players as The Telegraph revealed that the players have been taking pain killing injections to be able to play.

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