Dropping Harry Maguire never crossed my mind, says England manager Gareth Southgate as he leaves out Manchester United team-mates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho

Gareth Southgate says it "never crossed his mind" to drop Sheffield-born Harry Maguire from England's March squad, despite leaving out his Manchester United club-mates Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford.

OUT OF FORM: Harry Maguire has been struggling for Manchester United
OUT OF FORM: Harry Maguire has been struggling for Manchester United

And whilst the Red Devils pair have a fight on their hands to make Southgate's World Cup squad, another defender from Sheffield, Kyle Walker, has been told he will be back in the group for June's Nations League matches.

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The Three Lions host Switzerland and Ivory Coast at Wembley in two friendlies as Southgate firms up his plans for this winter's World Cup in Qatar.

Crystal Palace centre-back Marc Guehi is a surprise inclusion, but not at the cost of the badly out-of-form Maguire.

"I don't think it ever crossed our mind not to select Harry Maguire for this squad," said former Middlesbrough manager Southgate. "He's been a key part of the starting XI that got us to a World Cup semi-final (in 2018) and a European Championship final (In July).

"I know the club are going through a difficult period but you've got to look at who are our best players and the core of the team, and he is in that group.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's one of our best centre-backs and form in that sense is temporary.

"In our forward areas there is perhaps a lot more competition for some of those wide places so I will always be accused of double standards on picking on form but there are nuances in that because we're not picking 100m finalists where the fastest time wins and it's all very clear.

"Harry is now over 40 caps, a consistently strong performer for us and was through the autumn period as well. Hopefully he can continue that vein of form with us he's had for such a long period of time."

With Kieran Trippier injured, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James as the right-backs named.

"With Kyle I had a long chat with him and we felt this was an opportunity to look at the two younger full-backs," explained Southgate. "We know all there is to know about Kyle, he'll be back with us for the games in June.

"We're very happy with what he's done. He's a very important part of the progress we've made as a team and you can see in the biggest matches for Manchester CIty this year he's still been such a key player for them.

"But these young full-backs are exciting and we need to give them their opportunities as well. There is a little bit of doubt over a couple, so this squad could change a little bit."

Former Leeds United loanee Ben White is in the squad but his old team-mates Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford were not really fit enough to push for selection, even though there are only two specialist centre-forwards in the squad in Harry Kane and Tammy Abraham.

Bamford has played just 77 minutes of football since injuring his ankle in mid-September, whilst Phillips is set to be in a matchday squad for the first time since December when Leeds play Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday.

SQUAD: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal); Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Wolves), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Man Utd), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Ben White (Arsenal); Jude Bellingham (Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace, on-loan from Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Tammy Abraham (Roma), Phil Foden (Man City), Jack Grealish (Man City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Man City).