The 25-year-old, who has recently overcome his injury problems, has been flawless for United this season, and he also put in an impressive performance in the 4-0 win over Malta last week.
“Not just this season but there was a long period in the middle of last season where I think he has been the best defender,” Southgate said.
“He’s got very good composure on the ball. He’s got the reading of the game, he’s aggressive in his defending – which I like – and I think he has got fantastic experience, although he is still only relatively young.
“Obviously he has missed a lot of football. I remember watching him against Spain under Fabio [Capello] so we are going back quite a long way since he made his debut.
“He’s had great experiences with club and country. He organises well, he competes well so I’m delighted we’ve been able to involve him this time and it was clear the other night [against Malta] what he brings to the team.”
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