They say a change is as good as a rest. For Jesse Lingard, who has been on the receiving end of criticism of late, it may be the case he needs that rest and to be out of the starting eleven for a short while. This in turn might help him in the long run to discover his best form again for United.
Lingard has been with the club since the age of seven having worked his way up through the youth academy. This was then followed by a loan spell at Leicester City, where this was to give him some playing time but also increase his physicality and develop his decision making. Lingard was picked for pre-season tour before the 2013/14 season and was United’s top scorer with four goals. Though Lingard did not see himself being out on loan again and was looking to break through into the first team, he ultimately went to Birmingham City on loan during that season where he scored four goals in his first game for them.
Lingard had a further two loan spells at Brighton and Derby in subsequent seasons before his breakthrough into the United first team came in the 2015/16 season. That season, he made forty appearances in all competitions, scored six goals and had four assists.
You may think this does not look a good return from that season. However, Lingard was starting to be noticed as a big game player as he would score goals in some of the most important games for United. In the FA Cup Final 2016 against Crystal Palace, Lingard came off the bench to score the winning goal. Then in the following season during the EFL Cup Final 2017, Lingard again scored to help United go on and secure the victory against Southampton.
His form got even better during the 2017/18 season as he made 42 appearances in all competitions, scored 13 goals and provided 7 assists. This resulted in him being selected for England’s 2018 World Cup squad and became a key member of it. With a great strike against Panama and his work rate being instrumental throughout the tournament, this won him many fans across the country during that summer.
But since that summer in Russia, the form of Lingard has dropped alarmingly for United. His lack of goals and assists has resulted in major concerns that Lingard’s influence on the game has declined. Whilst his all out pressing style and great positioning on the pitch are some of his best attributes, he does not look the same player he once was. He has only scored one goal in 2019 and that was against Arsenal in the FA Cup. His stats for 2018/19 season show that he only scored 5 goals and made 4 assists in all competitions.
Lingard has also been criticised for his social media activity which manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pulled him upon back in the summer after the crude video he posted on Instagram. This had led to questions of him being unprofessional. Back in December 2018, Lingard’s professionalism was called into question again as Gary Neville had said on Sky Sports during the game against Liverpool he could not believe Lingard had held a launch party for his new business a week before an important game for the club. Could it be outside influences such as his businesses / social media are distracting him from what he should be doing on the pitch.
From watching the home games this season at Old Trafford, Lingard has pressed the opposition teams well when he has played but other than that I have not seen much else from him. He needs to start doing more by chipping in with more goals and assists to help the team out.
Gary Neville has even questioned whether Lingard is playing in the right position as he believes the number 7 / 8 role is not something he is able to fulfil. He told Sky Sports during the Premier League game against Arsenal, “I think he would be a perfect number 16, 17 or 18 in a Man Utd squad. But he’s being asked to be a number seven or eight. He’s not probably the answer for that starting XI, but as a part of a 22-man squad, it’s a different story”.
I think Jesse Lingard is playing in the right role of a number 7 / 8 and I cannot deny he has the heart and commitment. However, he is now 26 years old and no longer considered a future prospect. He now must go back to basics with his footballing game and if he does do this, then I believe he can still have a future at United.
What do you think?