Man Utd icon Ferdinand fears for England at World Cup as he predicts ‘worst-case scenario’ with ‘Achilles heel’ Maguire

    RIO FERDINAND believes England are facing a “worst-case scenario” by relying on Harry Maguire at the World Cup when he is short of form and fitness.

    And the ex-Three Lions centre-back predicts Gareth Southgate’s deficiencies in defence will be our “Achilles heel” out in Qatar.

    Harry Maguire is expected to be named in England's squad for the World Cup in Qatar despite a lack of game-time at Man Utd

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    Harry Maguire is expected to be named in England’s squad for the World Cup in Qatar despite a lack of game-time at Man UtdCredit: Getty
    Rio Ferdinand thinks that Maguire could be England's Achilles heel in the backline at the World Cup.

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    Rio Ferdinand thinks that Maguire could be England’s Achilles heel in the backline at the World Cup.Credit: Reuters

    Southgate has stood by Maguire during the Manchester United man’s nightmare season where he has lost his starting spot at Old Trafford and struggled with a thigh injury.

    The England boss has pointed out that Maguire played a huge role in the nation’s successful runs in the last two major tournaments — and will back his man at the upcoming finals.

    Ferdinand can understand that loyalty — even if it may be “blind trust” — but is concerned about the number of defenders with recent injury problems set to be named in the squad.

    Manchester City’s Kyle Walker looks as if he will win his race against a groin injury but Chelsea pair Reece James and Ben Chilwell are out.
    Ferdinand, 43, admitted: “Harry has not let England down ever. He’s been phenomenal for England.

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    “But his form has gone out the window for Man Utd. He’s not in the team, he’s got an injury as well.

    “Going into a tournament, I couldn’t think of another worst-case scenario. I would be concerned about that.

    “You can go in there with one, maybe, like that. But we’ve got Walker and Maguire in the defensive line who are potentially going to be going in there off the back of injuries and a lack of form.”

    Ferdinand won 81 caps in his 14 years playing for England.

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    Being such a great player meant the likes of Jonathan Woodgate and Jamie Carragher rarely got a look-in — two players who surely would rack up the appearances if they were playing today.

    Were there such depth at centre-back available to the current Three Lions boss, Ferdinand does not believe he would be so reliant on Maguire.

    He added: “He trusts him. It could be blind trust, I don’t know. But he does trust him. As a manager you’re going to go with what you know, with what you’re comfortable with.

    “The problem he’s got is it’s not like he has four or five other candidates like in my generation where you’d be able to go ‘he’s out of form’ or ‘he’s not playing’ or ‘he’s injured’.

    “I had Sol Campbell, Carragher, Woodgate, Ledley King, the list goes on. All of those players start today.

    “I’ve always thought if you’re going to win a tournament, you’ve got to have a good defence.

    “That’s where we’re probably at our weakest now. Even if there weren’t injuries or lack of form, I feel like that was our weakest area anyway.

    “Walker, our quickest defender, out. Maguire, form and injuries. When you’re looking at it, you’re thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ Is (Trevoh) Chalobah going to be ready? He’s playing really well. But last month it was (Fikayo) Tomori. Before that it was (Marc) Guehi.

    “There’s no one in there that you go, ‘They jump out as the No 1 candidates to go and play’. So it’s very difficult. That could in the end be our Achilles heel.”

    Despite his reservations over the Three Lions’ backline, Ferdinand still reckons a successful tournament for England can only be defined if they come back with the trophy next month.

    It is what he sees as the next step after reaching the semi-finals in Russia and the final at Euro 2020.

    He said: “If you base it on the last two tournaments of semis and then final, surely the progression has to be to win it.

    “Anything less is going to be seen as a bit underwhelming because you are looking at the trajectory and the FA’s plans would have been that.”

    To win it, England would most likely have to win a quarter-final against reigning champions France, who are many people’s tip, including Ferdinand’s, for the title.

    There are some that believe that whatever happens this could be Southgate’s final tournament in charge, despite being contracted until 2024.

    The Three Lions chief copped flak over the summer for a run of six Nations League games without a win which included a 4-0 hiding at home to Hungary.

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    Yet Ferdinand added: “I don’t know how seriously they take the Nations League. But he’s earned the grace from what he’s done. For just morale, given what we’ve been through.“He was that close, a whisker away from winning the Euros. He’s taken us to heights that we’ve not seen since 1966, in two tournaments.

    “He obviously knows how to get through to the latter stages of a tournament. What are you going to get rid of that for?”
    *Rio Ferdinand’s Tipping Point launches tomorrow exclusively on Prime Video.

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