He was a late starter but Manchester United attacking midfielder, Jesse Lingard is finally starting to become a key part of the team.
Lingard joined the Manchester United academy 2000, at the age of 7 and signed his first professional contract in 2011.
It wasn’t until August 2014 that Lingard made his Manchester United debut, in a home game against Swansea City. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury in that game and did not play again for United that season. Despite that, he did a brief a brief loan spell at Derby County in the second half of the 2014-15 season, scoring 2 goals in 15 games. By the end of that season, Lingard was 22 years of age and was yet to make an impression on the big stage. Many people would have written him off at this point and would have expected to see him playing in the lower divisions. Not many would have expected Lingard to be named in the 2018 World Cup squad for England after breaking into United’s first team.
After a few loan spells at Leicester City, Birmingham City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Derby County (as previously mentioned), Lingard’s broke into the United team during the 2015-16 season and he first made a name for himself by netting in a 2-0 home win against West Bromwich Albion in November 2015. Manchester United’s manager at the time, Louis van Gaal can take a lot of credit for bringing Lingard through the ranks especially as during that season, he was starting look like an exciting player for the future. He scored a fine half-volley in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea in February 2016, before putting his name in the headlines with a spectacular volley in the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace in May 2016; United won the game 2-1 and Lingard got the winner.
The dismissal of van Gaal meant Jose Mourinho was to take over as United manager in the summer of 2016 and Lingard would have been keen to impress. He made the switch from shirt number 35 to 14 during the summer. The 2016-17 campaign probably did not go as well as he might have hoped, only scoring one Premier League goal, albeit another superb goal against Middlesbrough in March 2017 and scoring at Wembley again in the League Cup final as United beat Southampton 3-2. Most of Lingard’s appearances during this season were as a substitute and he struggled to nail down his place in the team.
Although the 2017-18 season was Lingard’s best yet for Manchester United, it was not consistently perfect. He did not make his first league start until 21 October in a game which United lost 2-1 to Huddersfield at the John Smith Stadium, a game in which no player covered themselves in glory. Ten days later, I went to Old Trafford to watch United play Benfica in the Champions League group stage (United won 2-0). However, it was an uninspiring and dull affair with lots of the fans around me making Lingard a scapegoat. I, personally, was not convinced that he was good enough to be a long-term Manchester United player.
The real turning point in his season was when he went on a brilliant solo run and finished beautifully in a 4-2 win away at Watford in November 2017. He got the 4th goal to make it 4-2 in the 86th minute which was not only a brilliant goal, but a very important one in the context of the game.
Just four days later, he scored a brace at the Emirates as United, with the help of goalkeeper David de Gea, beat the Gunners 3-1. These two games gave Lingard the spark to go on and have a very good month.
Lingard scored another brace on Boxing Day, which were again, very important to the team as United fought back from 2-0 down at home to Burnley to draw 2-2 and spare their blushes. He was developing a habit of popping up at the right time to score crucial goals to help the team. New Years’ Day 2018 was another productive day for Lingard as he produced a fantastic 25-yard strike in a 2-0 win against Everton at Goodison Park. Lingard won Manchester United’s Player of the Month for December which was much deserved after his impressive displays and knack for scoring important goals.
His last goal of the 17-18 season came against Chelsea, scoring a headed winner in a 2-1 home win against the reigning champions. After not scoring his first league goal of the season until the end of November, Lingard ended the Premier League campaign with 8 goals and 13 in all competitions. Particularly during this season, he has become more of a focal point of the team, using his pace and movement to create chances for others and get goals for himself. He has made a huge improvement in the last 12 months and hopefully, if he has a good world cup and keeps improving his game, he could be a very good player for Manchester United and England in the future.
Do you think Jesse Lingard will be a key player for Gareth Southgate and England at the upcoming World Cup? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @AllOutFootball_ with the hashtag #AOF!