Sometimes, we have to give credit where it’s due.
Manchester United booked a berth in the fourth round of the FA Cup following a solid 2-0 win over Derby County at Old Trafford. Two second-half goals from Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku lifted The Red Devils to a harder-than-expected win at home.
And precisely Lingard is the player we will talk about in this piece. The former Academy star has been criticised through most of his career, and there are several fans who believe he is not good enough to play for Manchester United. However, the England international is proving his doubters wrong this season. And even though many fans did not expected it before the start of the campaign, Lingard is now one of the best players on United’s squad.
Yes, you read that right. The talented – yet inconsistent – winger has looked more decisive than big-name acquisitions such as Lukaku, Paul Pogba or even Nemanja Matic, just to name a few. He changed positions a few months ago, and has been playing as a nº 10 in recent matches. Surprisingly, the move has paid off.
Lingard has alternated good and bad games, but there is no question he changes the game when he is on. He had an excellent display against Watford scoring a brace, and was decisive in United’s 2-0 win against Everton where he scored a Goal Of The Season contender. But as if that was not enough, he also played a vital role during Friday’s win over Derby, once again finding the back of the net.
The numbers back Lingard’s play up
Through 26 appearances across all competitions this season, the 25-year-old has 11 goals and four assists. But Lingard has been on an absolute tear over his last 10 matches. He registers eight goals and two assists over that span. Those are numbers for a prolific striker, so it is needless to say just how big his impact has been. Especially since he is coming from behind in the final meters.
Lingard’s versatility is quite a plus, as well. He has been playing on a central role, but can operate wider if needed. His natural role remains as a winger, and he can be a game-changing player with that pace on the wing. But there is no reason to move him around if he is playing well on his current role. And most of his improvements can be attributed to Jose Mourinho. After all, the Portuguese tactician was the one who decided to change Lingard’s position.
It remains to be seen whether this change is a permanent one or not. But there is no question Lingard has been playing above the expectations of late. And United must take advantage of his stellar form while it lasts.