Manchester United: Lingard is one of Mourinho’s rare success stories
While he has his detractors, Jose Mourinho will take some comfort in Jesse Lingard’s rise to the top.
Honesty is a strange concept in football.
Being described as such means that your talent is usually diminished. Sure, you might be lacking the spark that separates a journeyman from the elite but you’re “an honest pro”, a hard-working packhorse reporting eagerly for grunt duty.
At the beginning of this season, it looked like Jesse Lingard would be poisoned with the same tag.
A productive loan spell at Derby and repeated cameos with the first team had failed to translate into performances of any real consistency. Old Trafford had waited patiently for his metamorphosis but Lingard’s potential seemed reluctant to convert into any real potency.
Hitting the big time
This season, however, he has arrived.
According to Opta, the 25-year old has been “directly involved in 19 goals in all competitions this season,” including 13 goals and six assists. That, Opta concludes, is “one more than he managed in the previous three campaigns for Manchester United combined.”
“I think it’s my time now” Lingard admitted in a recent interview with Sky Sports. “I knew we had to step up and kind of take charge. That’s what I’ve done.”
Lingard, of course, has always had a knack for scoring a timely goal. He’s one of a select group of players to have scored at Wembley in all three of the Community Shield, FA and League Cups.
Credit where it’s due
Despite the torrent of criticism that swills around him, José Mourinho deserves a hunk of credit for his stellar year.
The Portuguese has put his faith in the Warrington native, granting him more starts than either Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial throughout the current campaign.
By and large, he has deployed him in his favoured position, too. Lingard’s productive displays, as well as an unrelenting diligence towards the defensive duties demanded of all attackers in Mourinho’s stringent system, means that he has become a firm favourite with the acerbic United supremo.
At first, the arrival of Alexis Sánchez in January looked to upset Lingard’s confidence.
He was chosen to start just three of the seven games after the Chilean’s arrival in Manchester. There were real concerns about the impact such a transfer could have on his nascent form, as well as that of Marcus Rashford.
Whilst reports link the latter with a tenuous move away from Old Trafford, Lingard has fought back to make a serious case for his inclusion in the starting line-up.
He scored a phenomenal goal to secure a victory against Chelsea in February, whilst he started and starred in the famous 3-2 victory over Manchester City at the Etihad a few weeks ago.
Against Bournemouth on Wednesday he was excellent once again, giving Chris Smalling the simplest of finishes in a 2-0 rollover.
Looking the star
Already, Lingard’s place at the World Cup is assured. There’s even a case for him to start, with Dele Alli continuing to endure a frustrating season.
That the United man is even in the conversation, however, speaks volumes about his progress over the past twelve months. He might be an honest pro but he’s finally beginning to look like a star too.
What do you think about Lingard’s talents? Let us know by commenting below.