One of the most maligned footballers over the last few years has been Jesse Lingard .
Lucky to play for Man Utd? Maybe
Lucky to play for England? Maybe
Premier League quality player? Maybe
These are all questions, debates which have occurred among football fans via social media, radio phone ins, podcasts, football grounds or pubs. When you break it down no one progresses through the ranks of an elite football club without some essence of ability.
What can be questioned is did he make international squads due to him playing for Man Utd rather than a lower positioned top flight side, of course he did. Its a bias which has occurred for years in English football, just ask Matt Le Tissier. England managers are more likely to trust a player who plays in high level matches at the top of table or European competitions than a big fish in a small pond battling relegation.
Jesse has never been a main player for Man Utd, since 2015 he has averaged 25 league games a season, a mixture of starts or sub appearances. He has appeared more consistently in the domestic cup matches, this shows with a ratio of a goal every 3 cup games compared to every 7 games in the league.
When wearing the red of Man Utd you often wonder what his redeeming features as a footballer are, yes he can control a ball, runs a lot, has pace and pass to a teammate but you do not fear him as a player or fan. You wonder if he is there to help coordinate goal celebrations?
The last year has meant with his contract running down, turning 28 and younger, better talent emerging at Utd his time was coming to an end. You wondered when he moved to West Ham on loan if it was the start of his career fizzling down like many a squad player at Man Utd over the last 20 years. Just think of Darron Gibson, Wes Brown, John O'Shea, Darren Fletcher and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer! Its still a small sample size but his impact already at West Ham has been great, 5 games, 3 goals and 2 assists with a MOM display against champions elect Man City on Saturday. What he has shown is he CAN compete at Premier League level, he CAN lead a teams attacking charge and you CAN bounce back from horrid abuse not even at times based on your playing ability.
The Hammers are having a season right now, they could qualify for the Champions League, Lingard's addition if the current form continues may well be the catalyst which seems them achieve that goal. With Utd holding a 1 year extension to his deal, this season should show him his future does not lay there, a perm move to the London stadium or elsewhere is what beckons for him. A move to a club who sees him as a week on week starter and attacking fulcrum is the destiny he holds.
International caps or medals may not be what he earns over the next 5 to 10 years but the respect of football fans is there for the taking?