For years, it felt like Jesse Lingard was going to be a Manchester United ‘nearly man’. We’ve seen it time and time again when a youngster comes directly from the academy, plays a good few games and is then elevated by many to an elite level.
I look at Adnan Januzaj as the main culprit. Many (myself included), thought the young Belgian would go on to superstardom at Old Trafford. Obviously, that didn’t happen and I honestly couldn’t tell you where he’s playing his football nowadays.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Lingard, born in Warrington, has been at Manchester United for eighteen years. He made his first-team debut back in 2014/15, after three loan moves to the Championship. One more loan followed in the same season, as he headed to Derby County after overcoming serious injury.
Since then, Lingard has been a mainstay in both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho’s squad. That should tell you all you need to know about his ability, but as you and I both know, Twitter’s keyboard warriors obviously know best…
Jesse Lingard is an excellent footballer. Quick-thinker, brilliant movement, great finisher, supreme pace. We're lucky to have him at Manchester United. pic.twitter.com/en9DotYw9C
— OldTraffordFaithful (@OTFaithful) March 27, 2018
I’ve watched the young man plenty of times over the last few years, but this season he’s really come to the fore. He’s always had the knack to score in big games (we’ll get to that later), but the consistency is beginning to show, and that’s down to his hard-working attitude and desire to succeed at the highest level.
So, last night, I was sat slumped in front of the TV preparing to be bored to death by another dull, lifeless England team. My, was I pleasantly surprised.
Lingard, alongside his pal Raheem Sterling, absolutely ran the show from an offensive point of view. Their movement was exceptional, showing an almost telepathic connection as they toyed with Italy’s back line at times. This wasn’t the first time we’ve witnessed this, either. Against Holland just a few days earlier it was very much the same, although Marcus Rashford also contributed greatly that time too.
It’s something that Manchester United simply has to replicate. Sure, Lingard has scored some absolute corkers this year, and we’ve seen some brilliant passages of play from the Warrington-born-winger, but we’re still not using him to his full capacity.
Whether that’s Mourinho’s tactics coming into play remains to be seen. For me, he has to be one of the first names on the team-sheet. I know that sounds absolutely daft given all the world-class names and faces in and around that Old Trafford dressing room, but big names and talented footballers don’t win you matches; systems and styles do.
I just don’t get what’s not to love about our Jesse. He adores this club like every single one of you who are reading this article. More than anything, he’s a fan of United, and he’s already given us some stunning memories that’ll live with us forever.
— OldTraffordFaithful (@OTFaithful) March 28, 2018
If you can, take a look back at that stunning goal he scored against Crystal Palace in an FA Cup final. At the time, United were down to ten men after some dodgy defending from Chris Smalling (nothing new there, then). The ball came to Lingard on the half-volley and he absolutely rocketed it into the Palace goal, sending the crowd into absolute ruptures. What a moment for the young man, who helped the club secure their first silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
Two years on, those goals are becoming more frequent, his assists tally is racking up nicely and his overall effect on the game is growing. At 25, it’s fair to consider him a late bloomer, but anyone who says he isn’t an excellent footballer are either ABU’s or, simply put, clueless.
Alright, he’s not the stellar name that excites a’la Dele Alli, but I know who I’d rather have in my team; and it’s certainly not the one who’s now got a reputation for falling to the ground rather easily.