Since Louis van Gaal took charge at Manchester United, he’s spent around £250 million on talent and been criticised by some for his use of the academy after the sales of Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck.
However, winger Jesse Lingard has shown that if you impress the boss he will stick by you.
Lingard impressed Manchester United fans during the pre-season tour of 2013 under David Moyes and during Louis van Gaal’s first summer at the club in 2014.
He scored goals, performer well and seemed to take strongly to the ideas of the new managers, even starting Louis van Gaal’s first game in the Premier League against Swansea.
The then 22 year old was injured seriously in the first half of that game and was ruled out until January, when he then went on loan to Championship high flyers Derby. He regained fitness and impressed there, scoring in the play-off semi-finals although Derby failed to gain promotion.
Now, Lingard has managed to break into the Manchester United starting line-up after a slow start to the season where he struggled to make the match-day squad. Some fans love him, some fans aren’t convinced. Is Jesse Lingard the answer for Manchester United’s wing or is he a stop-gap until next season?
Manchester United have long been linked with wingers such as Gareth Bale, Neymar, Antoine Griezmann, Sadio Mane, Ahmed Musa and more, while names like Juan Mata, Angel Di Maria, Ashley Young, Memphis Depay and Adnan Januzaj have all struggled to hold down the right-wing position and impress consistently.
However, since his introduction into the first-team Lingard has given the side an ‘oomph’ that they severely lacked prior to his involvement. His direct running, free movement and willingness to track back and help defensively have been key to United looking better going forward.
Despite that, it’s clear he’s not quite the finished article. Lingard has a habit of creating chances for himself and wasting them. His quality in the final third is far from good enough for Manchester United at the moment.
He’s scored three goals this season, with strikes against West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle and most recently Stoke. All goals were important, but he seems to be remembered more for his missed chances. The miss against Newcastle United was arguably the worst of a bad bunch, although many seemingly remember his miss in the 0-0 draw against PSV Eindhoven as the most costly. His miss against Watford has also not gone unnoticed, although it’s received less attention as United ended up winning that game.
But with no signings during the winter window, although Adnan Januzaj did return to the fold following a failed loan spell at Dortmund, Lingard has managed to hold down his spot in the team for a little while longer.
His goal against Stoke showed that he is learning to get into the box more and his end product is improving the more he plays, but at 24 years old will he ever reach that next level?
It’s a question that is nigh on impossible to answer but the summer will be a big one for Manchester United and Jesse Lingard.
As the Reds look to progress to the next level on the field, Lingard’s position is one that has openly been discussed as needing strengthening while his performances will no doubt have attracted attention from other Premier League sides as he shows he is ready to play in the top division.