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Southgate backs Shaw, Smalling

England interim manager Gareth Southgate is defending Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling after comments made by their club manager Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho questioned the character of some of his players, saying he only wants players willing to sacrifice themselves for the club and play through injuries. And although he didn’t mention them by name, it was clear that it was a dig at Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling who were unable to play in United’s game against Swansea on Sunday.

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

Southgate was asked if he thought either player had character problems.

“I don’t know Chris well but that wouldn’t be my impression, having worked with him,” Southgate said.

“Luke I know well and Luke’s had a really tough injury [a broken leg kept him out for almost a year]. I think very often it’s easy to look from the outside or to make judgments on people without knowing them really, really well.

“If Luke wasn’t fit to play yesterday – and he was with us in September under Sam Allardyce and was feeling problems with the leg – there’s clearly something.

“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.”

Both players were left out of the England squad taking on Scotland at Wembley Stadium on Friday in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and the friendly against Spain the following Tuesday.

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