Mention the name Jesse Lingard to anyone but a Manchester United fan and you will likely be met with blank faces.
Those that may have heard of him may not know too much about him. Despite successful loan spells with Birmingham and Brighton & Hove Albion last season, scoring ten goals in 29 league appearances for the two clubs, the young attacking midfielder is yet to truly announce himself to the world. This season, however, could be his chance to prove himself.
Lingard has impressed out on loan
Although he has yet to play a competitive game for United, Lingard has already proven his ability multiple times. Having been unable to force his way into the plans of David Moyes, he was sent out on loan, where he spent a terrific few months with Birmingham, scoring a first-half hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday on his debut, before adding a fourth in the second-half.
His attacking style of play and prolific goal-scoring endeared him to his colleagues and fans, with the club trying unsuccessfully to extend his loan deal beyond January. He left the club at the end of the short-term deal, having picked up an impressive six goals in 13 appearances.
Lingard: 'Different class'
Lingard briefly returned to Manchester, making a number of under-21 appearances and prompting United coach Warren Joyce to describe him as 'in a different class'. On the back of his good performances at youth level, he was loaned out again - this time to Brighton & Hove Albion, where he enjoyed another successful spell, scoring four goals in 16 appearances.
New manager Louis van Gaal gave Lingard a couple of brief appearances during the International Champions Cup in America, bringing him on for the final half-hour in the 3-1 victory over Real Madrid. He again came off the bench in the final against Liverpool and scored the final goal as United came from behind to win 3-1. Not only did he play with flair and confidence on both occasions, he proved himself as a prolific goal-scoring midfielder - his goal against Liverpool requiring a combination of quick feet, close ball control and accurate finishing.
Lingard: All-round attacking midfielder
Flexible and adaptable, Lingard can operate either as a winger or an attacking midfielder, performing either role with the same work ethic and enthusiasm. He scores goals from either position, uses his vision and range of passing to bring others into the game and displays a cool head when under pressure.
With Van Gaal's 3-5-2 formation replacing the traditional winger with a wing-back, Lingard could easily find himself challenging Rafael and Valencia in that position, having proven himself capable to his new manager, as well as offering another option in the number nine role or even up front.
At just 21, Lingard still has many years to develop and improve. Under van Gaal, he could easily stake a claim for his inclusion in the side, mirroring Adnan Januzaj's success last season in bursting on to the Old Trafford scene.
He has proved himself more than capable at Championship and under-21 level and is ready to prove that he can cope with the pressure and huge demands of the Premier League. If he retains his cool head and enthusiasm, this could become his breakthrough season, if given the chance at the highest level. It would certainly be a huge loss for the club if he were loaned out or sold before the transfer window shuts...
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