Manchester United: Lingard hype shows how far England have fallen
The spotlight on Jesse Lingard is getting brighter, but the current attention and perceptions are just a sign as to how far England’s national pedigree has dropped.
Perhaps it’s the inevitable England fan World Cup year, can’t-be-helped sense of optimism, or perhaps it’s a case of many things happening at once…
Whichever way you look at it, social media and a rampant sense of irrational hope and belief have made this Jesse Lingard’s current perceived status: “Wow, this guy can play, he will be the real difference in Russia!”
It’s nice to have someone new to talk about and label as the ‘next big thing’ or the new ‘Messiah of English football’, but in this case, it hasn’t been earned yet.
Lingard just finds himself in a position of media attention when everything else around him isn’t quite going to plan.
The situation and circumstances of players are always different, but there are many factors that can be attributed to this wave of bizarre hype.
Late bloomer Lingard
The competitiveness of today’s modern game, especially at the top-end of the spectrum, is incomparable.
So much so that if you’re not catching the eyes of scouts by the age of six or seven, you’re already ‘behind the curve’.
With this situation being the way it is, especially in the Premier League, whenever a player makes a mark from out of nowhere, he is very raw and youthful.
At Old Trafford, the last few years have produced players who’ve brought this instant bang.
Marcus Rashford, James Wilson and Adnan Januzaj are all examples who’ve come into a United side and scored goals on their respective debuts – all of them were 18.
The case is very different for Lingard. He didn’t make his first appearance until he was 21 and didn’t score his first goal until he was 22.
The argument can be made that one of those comparatives is an out-and-out striker, but from an attacking sense, the point stands. He’s four years behind the milestones.
While Wilson hasn’t made an England appearance, Rashford has, at 18. Lingard had to wait until he was 23.
Lingard is a modern-day late bloomer, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it needs to be remembered that he’s turning 26 this year.
His age is often forgotten, or not known, and his image slips into the same bracket that the likes of the aforementioned Rashford and Januzaj found themselves in when they first burst onto the scene.
Timing helping Lingard
Every player that comes to the fore does so in their own way.
Jesse Lingard, though, seems to have developed a knack for popping up in the right place at the right time.
His numbers aren’t exactly flattering: eight goals and four assists aren’t bad, but it’s the manner, the timing and the situations that can be attributed to his ‘rise’ this season.
It’s been a strange campaign for Manchester United. Performances are being questioned, certain players are being questioned, and football wouldn’t be football with Jose Mourinho being questioned.
There’s been controversy, surprise defeats, media outbursts and ‘boring’ football.
Lingard has done his best to deflect it – but in reality, he’s only made a difference a few times.
He scored an injury-time equaliser to grab his second at home to Burnley; he scored two goals away at Arsenal, and he came off the bench to grab the winner against Chelsea.
Other than that, he hasn’t really contributed an awful lot.
What has benefited him, though, and where he has been ‘fortunate’, is the timing of his goals. At home to Burnley, he spared the blushes, away at Arsenal is a big game, and as long as Mourinho is at the helm a victory over Chelsea will always be a sweet taste.
If these five goals had been scored at home to a Brighton, West Ham or Stoke City, then it’s unlikely he’d be receiving the praise he is.
Paul Pogba scrutiny helping Lingard
After making the switch from Juventus two summers ago, many expected Paul Pogba to make waves in the Premier League.
In reality, it hasn’t yet worked out for the Frenchman.
In and out of the team, media scrutiny and lack of good performances have hampered Pogba in his second season back in England.
For Lingard though, it is yet another surrounding negative that is putting him in a positive light.
Such is the lack of convincing performances from Pogba so far, that it has opened the opportunity for others to appear to shine in his absence, in somewhat of a ‘consolation’ scenario.
‘Pogba isn’t doing it, but Lingard is flying’. It masks the reality, it gives United fans a false sense of positivity.
Were United to be top of the league, and Pogba scoring goals, assisting at will and playing to his believed standard, you’d have to question whether Lingard would be talked about, regardless of what he’d achieved.
World Cup year adding to the hype
From an England perspective, Lingard’s reputation has been enhanced that this season is a World Cup year.
England’s recent summer tournament performances are an argument for another day, but the inevitable ‘I think we may get far, I’ve got a good feeling’ lines will come out once the domestic campaign ends.
England’s midfield talent pool is hardly overflowing, and it’s another situation that Lingard is enjoying.
Lingard wouldn’t have had a chance of getting into England squads of yesteryear – the quality of player was just too high. He’s not the only one, there are many in the set-up today that, 10 years ago, wouldn’t have had a look in.
It goes to show how little one has to contribute and achieve in the current day to get an England call-up. Score a big goal or two, and you’re in.
Lingard has only been in the squad 15 times. He’s made only 10 appearances, and only six starts. Of those ten, only four have been in competitive games.
The numbers are hardly anything to scramble over, his solitary goal came in the recent victory over the Netherlands, and his single assist in the following friendly with Italy at Wembley.
Surely England can’t rely and pin hopes on a player with figures like that?
Consistency the key
In Lingard’s defence, much like a teenager seeking that first job, he hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to build experience and feature regularly.
This is only his second full season at Old Trafford, and time will tell whether he’s able to sustain the hype and buzz in the coming seasons.
Remarkably, Lingard has only completed the full 90 minutes three times this season and contributed nothing in either of those games.
His success from the bench has been far greater, single-handedly earning United four points with the goals against Burnley and Chelsea.
But to be considered as a real hope for England and to earn his newfound media clamour, he must be much more consistent and do much, much more.
In the league, Lingard has only scored twice in 2018 and has zero assists. In the Champions League all season? Zero goals, zero assists.
Player of the year contender? You must be joking.