Jesse Lingard is a polarizing player. Some people believe he is good enough to start for both Manchester United and England. Others believe he is the exact opposite. The winger certainly has several positive traits, and his pace can be a game-changing element when he’s hitting all the right notes.
One thing is certain, though. Lingard has been playing quite well of late, and could defintively see an increase on his playing time in the coming weeks. Even though Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial seem to be ahead of him in the pecking order, Lingard is making things difficult for Jose Mourinho with the way he has been playing over the past few weeks.
Let’s take his performance against Watford this Tuesday as an example. Lingard contributed with a goal and an assist during Manchester United’s 4-2 win. In fact, his goal was one of the best in the English Premier League this year. The explosive winger grabbed the ball on his own half, left four defenders behind and placed the ball out of the goalkeeper’s reach. In fact, his whole performance against The Hornets was worth watching.
Lingard looked accurate on his touches, explosive on the run, and sharp finishing plays. His touch in the final third was quite accurate, and he assisted Ashley Young on United’s first goal. The main difference was that Lingard did not play on his natural winger role. Instead, Lingard moved on a n°10 role behind Romelu Lukaku. Needless to say, he looked impressive.
Lingard’s effort against Watford could result on an expanded role for him in the near future. To be fair, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks like a shell of his former self. And it seems Mourinho does not rate Mata as an attacking midfielder no more, opting to play him as a right winger who can cut inside when given the chance instead. Others such as Rashford, Martial and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic could play behind Lukaku, but neither is a natural fit for the position. Lingard isn’t either, but he spent most of his Academy years roaming free as an attacking midfielder. His pace converted him into a winger, but he can operate on a more central position if needed.
Only time will tell whether Lingard gets a bigger role within the team or not. But right now, he is one of the team’s best players. And honestly, Lingard should remain as a starter given his current form. Maybe he becomes the attacking midfielder United have been looking for during the entire season. At the very least, he has enough talent to fill that void.
His recent performances are the best proof of that.