Stones

Manchester City star John Stones was in no doubt that Manchester United captain Harry Maguire would settle with England despite a lack of action at club level.

It has been a difficult season so far for Maguire who has only featured nine times for Erik ten Hag’s men over the course of the campaign. In the captain’s absence, Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane have become the first-choice partnership in defence at Old Trafford.

Victor Lindelof has also been chosen ahead of Maguire this season but Gareth Southgate opted to choose the United defender for his England squad based on his performances in the past. So far this faith has been repaid as the 29-year-old, alongside Stones, put in a fine display before the former had to be substituted due to illness.

When asked about Maguire in a press conference, Stones explained that he shared the faith Southgate has in him. “First of all, no doubt at all [that he would perform],” the City man said.

“Harry hasn’t played much at his club, but to come in and play like he did, I don’t think anyone saw a bit of rust on him. That’s great credit to him and I’m so happy for him and everyone who played.

“As a player you want and need to be playing and have a good rhythm. But for him to come in to play as he did is credit to him.”

Stones and Maguire’s friendship stretches back to their time as youngsters with Barnsley and Sheffield United respectively. While those two teams are not the best of friends, City and United are even fiercer rivals but, despite this, the 28-year-old admitted that they do still keep in touch.

“We swap texts, yes, but nothing about football,” he added. “Sometimes that can be the best thing.

“I am sure you have been in a situation where you have hurt your leg or whatever and everybody is bombarding you with questions about how it is. You just don’t want to be asked about it sometimes.

“We have got a good enough relationship to put things to one side and be normal. If I had my phone, I could probably tell you (what the texts said).

“Just general stuff, or it might be something one of us has seen or a joke. Probably me making a joke – that’s the first thing that came into my head.

“I think it is special that we have that sort of relationship that, when we are rivals at clubs, football has moved on a lot from 10 or 20 years ago, and that gets put aside very quickly. When we are on the pitch playing against each other, it is, ‘I want to beat that person and that team’.

“But as soon as that final whistle blows, we shake hands, the friendship resumes and we move on. It [when he met Maguire ] must have been before I was 10.

“We must have played against each other. I was at Barnsley and he was at Sheffield United. You know the good players in the team and you’ve seen the size of him now. He was a big kid.

“The partnership on the pitch comes with time and us having played together for a few years now. Sometimes the environment that we have created here – I can’t put my finger on why it is – it just clicks and it happens and you have a bond.”

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