Having spent over £100 million this summer, not many people would have thought that 22-year-old midfielder Jesse Lingard would become an essential part of the Manchester United senior team this season. However, his recent string of classy performances are starting to prove that this may be the case.
Since breaking into the United side as a half-time substitute at Goodison Park last month, the English youngster has gone on to make his Champions League debut, establish himself in the starting XI and even hit the crossbar in the Manchester derby.
As recently as this week Lingard assisted Wayne Rooney’s winner against CSKA Moscow and bagged his first-ever Man United goal in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over West Brom with a fabulous long-range effort. The fact that he’s come through the youth ranks at Old Trafford means that Lingard is already a huge fans’ favourite and he looks to be exactly what United have been missing in their team.
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WHAT DOES HE BRING?
The main attribute that Jesse Lingard has been able to give to this current Manchester United side is pace in the wide areas. Juan Mata has been superior to any other United wide player in terms of goals and assists since he joined from Chelsea, but one thing the Spaniard does lack is speed.
Additionally, the poor form and low-quality displays of £25 million summer signing Memphis Depay has seen the 21-year-old Dutchman struggle to get any playing time in recent weeks. Depay’s inconsistency has forced United boss Louis van Gaal to play 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial on the left-wing on occasions, much to the displeasure of the United fans.
Van Gaal has pinpointed speed in wide areas as the key for his team to begin scoring regularly again and Lingard has certainly provided this over the past few weeks. In addition to his pace, Lingard also possesses great vision, wonderful quick feet, a direct style of dribbling and a keen eye for goal.
Against West Brom, besides showcasing his technical quality in the way he scored, Lingard also displayed his impressive work ethic. He constantly hassled and hurried the Baggies’ defenders whenever they had the ball, and he used his athleticism and high energy levels to track back defensively and help out his teammates when needed.
GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH VAN GAAL
It’s been very clear for some time now that Van Gaal believes in the massive potential of Lingard. The English youngster has been at Old Trafford for many years, but other managers have opted to loan him out to the likes of Birmingham and Derby County instead of giving him a first-team opportunity.
Not only did Lingard start Van Gaal’s first-ever Premier League game in charge of United in August 2014, but it was Van Gaal who decided that Lingard would not be allowed to go out on loan yet again at the beginning of the current campaign.
This must have been a massive vote of confidence in Lingard’s eyes and with that confidence comes the ability to fully express oneself on the pitch.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Lingard’s recent sublime form could even have him dreaming of breaking into Roy Hodgson’s England squad in time for Euro 2016 next summer. Hodgson is aware of Lingard’s talent as the United youngster represented and scored for his country this summer during the Under-21 European Championship tournament.
There’s no doubt that if he is able to sustain his current level of performance over a long period of time, he’ll be knocking on that particular door. However, for the moment, Lingard is living out his childhood dream of playing for Manchester United and he is certainly doing himself proud.