Gareth Southgate doesn't doubt Luke Shaw or Chris Smalling's character

Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling have been backed by England interim manager Gareth Southgate
Image: Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling have been backed by England interim manager Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate has backed Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling after Jose Mourinho appeared to question his Manchester United players' character.

Mourinho, speaking after Sunday's win at Swansea, drew a distinction between those willing to play through injury and "the ones that a little pain can make a difference".

Neither Shaw nor Smalling was mentioned by name, but Mourinho had earlier revealed both made themselves unavailable for the game.

Southgate subsequently omitted the two United defenders from his England squad to take on Scotland and Spain in the coming days, and the interim boss said on Monday there is "obviously something wrong" with both.

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Swansea 1-3 Manchester Utd

"It's a difficult one because I don't know the reason for the comments Jose's made," said Southgate, who added he was reluctant to get involved in "a club matter".

Asked if he thought either had a suspect character he said: "I don't know Chris well but that wouldn't be my impression, having worked with him.

"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 judgements on people without knowing them really, really well.

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England's defender Chris Smalling (L) and Wales' midfielder Aaron Ramsey vie for the ball during the Euro 2016 group B football match between England and W
Image: Chris Smalling was also unavailable for the Swansea game

"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."

Southgate trod carefully when asked whether he had sympathy with the 21-year-old, saying: "Would that be a suggestion Jose hasn't, if I say that?

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Andy Walker & Ray Wilkins discuss Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling’s future at Manchester United after Jose Mourinho questioned the bravery of certain members

"Look, I think it's so difficult with any player. Every injury is different, every individual is different. I've not known players not play unless there's something. I think, having been a player, that would be my view on it.

"I think players want to play for England. I have not seen any player who didn't want to play for England.

"There have been players that haven't played as much, when I was playing, that maybe playing for England was a bit too much for them. But Luke's played with us right through, Chris has had a lot of games for England, so I don't think that is the situation for them.

"I think that they have got a moment with their club where they are not fit, and that's ruled them out for us this time."

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