Both manager Louis van Gaal and Manchester United share a rich tradition of giving youngsters an opportunity in the first-team. English youngster Jesse Lingard has come through the youth ranks at Old Trafford, producing some outstanding displays particularly at Under-21 level.
He recently broke into the Man United senior team at Goodison Park as a half-time substitute in United’s 3-0 win versus Everton.
Van Gaal’s decision to rest Juan Mata ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby meant Lingard was handed his Champions League debut in the 1-1 draw against CSKA Moscow, but how did he do?
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Despite being more of a central attacking midfielder than a winger, Lingard started the game on the right-hand side of midfield. He enjoyed a bright start to the game as Van Gaal’s men dominated possession and he injected much-needed pace into United’s attacking play.
His rotation with Ander Herrera caused CSKA a few problems before the Russian side took the lead and throughout the game he was always looking to play Wayne Rooney in behind CSKA’s defence.
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Despite playing on the right flank, Lingard wasn’t afraid to drift infield, receive the ball from the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and drive United forward.
United desperately needed to find a way back into the game and the 22-year-old displayed quick feet and very skilful close control as he attempted to add creativity in the final third. In addition to his technical quality, Lingard tracked back well and worked really hard to win back the ball whenever he lost it.
His run towards the penalty area created the space for Herrera to find Antonio Valencia, who then delivered the cross for Anthony Martial to head in United’s equalising goal.
Lingard was less influential in the second period but the youngster was applauded off by the travelling fans in Moscow upon being substituted off for Memphis Depay with ten minutes to go. Overall Jesse provided Man United supporters with a very encouraging performance.
In the away games at both Everton and CSKA Moscow Lingard has shown that he is an extremely athletic young man who can get up and down the pitch and create goalscoring opportunities with his vision.
The pace the midfielder possesses means he can play effectively in the wider areas as well as centrally and for such a young midfielder he seems to have an excellent work ethic.
One notable feature of Van Gaal’s near 25-year career in management is his willingness to give young players an extended run in the team should they make the most of their chances. The next step for the academy graduate is to establish himself within the current United squad and become a permanent part of the manager's plans.
Lingard’s performances over the past week have given Man United fans every reason to believe that he has the talent required to succeed at Old Trafford for a long period of time.
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