GARETH SOUTHGATE has done Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Antonio Conte some right favours during this international break.
The England boss has sent Harry Maguire and Harry Kane back to their clubs in far better shape, mentally and physically, than when they linked up with the Three Lions for their final two World Cup qualifiers a little over a week ago.
Both players rocked up at St George’s Park with their form and confidence lower than a snake’s belly.
Manchester United defender Maguire was reeling after their 2-0 – could have been 8-0 – home defeat by noisy neighbours City piled the pressure on his Red Devils gaffer Ole.
The centre-back, as in United’s 5-0 hammering by Liverpool in their previous Premier League match a fortnight earlier, had hardly covered himself in glory.
And to paraphrase the England fans’ chant about him, it looked as though he had been on the vodka and the Jaeger, and his head was blooming massive.
But United captain Maguire will return to their Carrington training HQ this week in much finer fettle after playing and opening the scoring in both of England’s heavy wins at home to Albania and away to San Marino.
Even more important than the flip of getting on the scoresheet will be the commanding role he played in ensuring the Three Lions chalked up clean sheets in both matches, something he has managed just once with United since August.
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And Maguire is not the only Harry in the England squad who will be going back to his club with a spring in his step.
Kane recorded back-to-back first-half hat-tricks as he took another step closer to his inevitable coronation as the Three Lions’ all-time top goalscorer.
If his first-half treble in last Friday’s 5-0 Wembley win over the Albanians was outstanding enough, he then followed up with four goals in 15 first-half minutes at San Marino last night to seal England’s qualification to Qatar 2022.
It also took his international tally for 2021 to 16 as he smashed the 113-year record for the most England goals scored in a calendar year set by George Hilsdon in 1908 and Dixie Dean in 1927, who both netted 12.
It leaves Kane on 48 goals, joint third-with Gary Lineker in the all-time list of highest Three Lions marksman behind Sir Bobby Charlton in second on 49 and holder Wayne Rooney on 53.
Tottenham will be hoping it inspires their frontman to get back on the Premier League goal trail after scoring just once in ten top-flight appearances this term.
If both Harrys rediscover their form for their clubs, both Ole and Conte will owe Southgate and England big time.
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