By Mark Weasley
For all the superstars plying their trade at Manchester United, it is easy to sideline Jesse Lingard.
The England international is a homegrown player, but has proved his worth in the past two years and is highly regarded by boss, Jose Mourinho. However, for a long time, his career was threatened to be derailed after a nasty knee injury back in Louis Van Gaal’s first season, and most must have feared that he would be yet another academy player failing to make the grade at the Theatre of Dreams.
He came back to full fitness the next season after going on loan to Derby, and he has not looked back ever since.
The classy winger was used as left-wing back in LVG’s first game as United boss against Swansea in August 2014, but he didn’t play sufficiently well enough in an unfamiliar position.
Van Gaal had used the formation to great effect with Holland at the World Cup, and many felt that Lingard didn’t have the requisite talent and drive to impose himself on that position, though the blame should have gone to the experienced Dutch tactician who should have known better that Lingard’s gangly frame and remarkable turn of pace would be better suited to attacking opposition defenders, rather than being defensive.
A late bloomer, most people still forget that he is at a ripe age of 24, and that he is nearing his peak. He was part of the 2011 FA Youth Cup winning team of Manchester United that include the likes of Michael Keane and Paul Pogba.
In United’s pre-season tour of the US, he has been majestic and is expected to play a lot going into next season as the club compete on four fronts. He signed a whopping £100k-a-week deal last season, which sent shock waves round the club’s ardent supporters, but in this crazy world of transfers, it is every penny well deserved.
For all the Lukakus, Pogbas, and Juan Matas, there is always a Jesse Lingard ready to deliver when it matters most.