A Manchester United player through and through, Jesse Lingard has risen through the ranks at the club, from the youth academy to a first team regular. His reward – not only the best season of his personal career, but also a spot on the plane to Russia.
If anybody had any concerns regarding Sir Alex Ferguson’s footballing mind, simply take a look at his predictions regarding Lingard. Back in 2012 Sir Alex stated that he would not flourish until his early 20s. With Lingard just hitting 25-years of age this season, he is finally being recognised for his skill and eye for goal with 13-goals and seven assists this during the campaign for United.
Many questions have been raised about Lingard over the years, but there is no doubt he is now putting in performances that his critics can no longer ignore. His ‘coming of age’ domestic campaign has demonstrated his ability to score some spectacular goals. An away visit to Watford this season will be remembered for Lingard’s goal after collecting the ball 60-yards from the net, and also against Derby in the FA Cup when he scored with a 20-yard shot. When it comes to goals, Lingard is able to find the net in big competitions, including the 2016 FA Cup Final and the 2017 League Cup Final. This season he rose to the big occasions in the Premier League, scoring away goals against both Chelsea and Arsenal.
He is a favourite with his manager, making 48-appearances this season for Mourinho and has displayed many notable performances. These included two games against Swansea. Not only did Lingard put in a man-of-the-match performance in the EFL Cup fourth-round against them, but he scored two goals in the game as well as providing important assists in their Premier League meeting.
His international performances have also not gone unnoticed. Back in March Lingard featured in both England friendlies, taking an impressive quick free-kick against Italy to set up Jamie Vardy and also scoring his first international goal against the Netherlands. His decisive contributions have led to his progression under Southgate, who has been a keen advocate for Lingard since his loan days at Birmingham City. The England manager brought him into his under-21s side for the 2015 European Under-21 Championship, and has praised the United player for his intelligence and strength on the ball.
Lingard has developed a keen eye for goal, which alongside his pace and talent when it comes to finding space proves that he provides a great threat. In the lead-up to Russia, Lingard has been a part of both June friendlies, leading to the likes of Dele Alli and other players of his kind being marginalised due to his ability to affect games, which has allowed him to move up the England pecking order.
One of the reasons he is bound to shine at the World Cup is his competence when it comes to linking the midfield and attack, along with his work rate. What sets Lingard apart from other players of his nature is his capability to drop deep. In the friendly against Italy he repeatedly sought after the ball when England were out of possession and won 100% of his tackles.
In addition, off the pitch he is also very popular. Whether it be his celebrations that are watched all over the world, or his unique connection with young fans, often taking time out of his own schedule to visit them, he has certainly become a favourite with fans.
Despite United having talent in the forms of Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata, Lingard has been able to cement his place as a first team regular. At one time United fans may have questioned his place in the squad, but now fans will find his name on the back of as many shirts as the likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, proving that he is considered in the same regard as some of United’s most popular players. Who says he can’t achieve a similar status with England?
Whilst always having the energy and intelligence in the game, adding the ability to deliver an end product could make him a key part of Southgate’s team and turn the doubters into believers, just as he has at Old Trafford.