England lost 1-0 to Denmark in the Nations League on Wednesday evening.
Harry Maguire was sent off after picking up two yellows in the first half.
Man United captain has had a poor start to the season for club and country.
In the 31 minutes minutes he was on the field, Harry Maguire had in the region of a dozen touches of the ball.
Two of them were fouls and about six others were uncertain pieces of control, one of which appeared to lead to a tweak at the top of his left hamstring. In a poor season for the Manchester United defender, this was most certainly the worst night of all.
How Maguire must wish he had never taken that holiday to Mykonos in August. That trip – and the conviction for bribery and aggravated assault that followed – looks to have set his season on an inexorable course for disaster that reached a new low here at Wembley.
The red card – delivered for a second clumsy booking – was a blow to England but at the same time felt like an act of mercy for the 27-year-old. Maguire mistakes were running like water by then and something already felt as though it was going to have to give.
The first booking had been awarded early for a late lunge at Yussuf Poulsen and the fact it clearly wasn’t even deliberate spoke volumes.
Had Maguire arrived late to stand on the Dane’s ankle on purpose then he would have answered for it. But this was a picture of a defender so out of sorts that he was actually trying to take the ball only to fall victim to his own abysmal sense of timing.
This is what happens when your game is off. Simple tasks become small mistakes and then those small mistakes become big ones.
Then, a poor header and a couple more uncertain touches later, another lunge at a loose ball brings you in to contact with a different opponent – this time Kasper Dolberg – and suddenly you are walking down the tunnel with your team-mates left in the cart.
As he left the field, Maguire just looked resigned to it all. His response to his travails in Greece – he has appealed the conviction – has been to try and play through his poor form and clear his muddled mind.
At United they are not exactly blessed with reliable central defenders but nevertheless he looks like a footballer in desperate need of a holiday somewhere quiet.
Maguire is a popular player among team-mates and the kind of lad to put his best face on and get on. It is tempting to wonder with the benefit of hindsight, however, whether a couple of weeks out of the spotlight may have served him well.
All of this is easy to say now. What is clear is Gareth Southgate’s problems once Maguire had departed are about to become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s at Old Trafford. United are at Newcastle on Saturday and then face games against PSG in Europe and Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton in the Premier League.
They will need their skipper but Maguire simply looks over burdened. He played the whole of Sunday’s win over Belgium and struggled against Romelu Lukaku in the first half. He was not alone there and did improve but here all the things that usually come naturally to a top class central defender presented themselves as hard work.
England manager Southgate will hope things improve as Maguire is his first defensive pick. Of the rest, he seems less sure and Wednesday night’s selection was a little strange.
The return of Conor Coady after sitting out the Belgium game was astute and the Wolves defender has advanced his international cause hugely over the last week or so. Coady was impressive again here and almost equalised at the death. That would have been two for the week for the Liverpudlian.
But why Kyle Walker was asked to play once again in a position he doesn’t like is harder to fathom. On the bench were three Premier League centre halves – Joe Gomez, Michael Keane and Tyrone Mings.
Coady is right-footed and could have played on Walker’s side. Walker could then have played right wing-back which would suit him more.
Southgate does know his own mind. That much is clear from decisions elsewhere during an international triple-header that has seen him start with 23 different players.
Once again here there was no place for Jack Grealish or Danny Ings, despite their excellent performances against Wales. Those two certainly know where they stand. So too, in a different way, does Mason Mount.
Southgate actually answered a question about Grealish with an answer that talked up Mount last week and his confidence in the latter was underlined by his selection here.
Mount played well, mind. So too, it must be said, did debutant Reece James behind him and England were pretty much in control for the first half hour. Declan Rice was finding space in the centre and both full-backs were able to get forward and give England some welcome width.
But Maguire’s exit was soon followed by a penalty that shouldn’t have been and England were suddenly behind.
This game turned as quickly as the Belgium one did, just in a different direction. On the basis of their three performances, two wins from the week feels about right.