Manchester United recently went 404 minutes without a goal before Wayne Rooney scored the winner against CSKA Moscow in their Champions League encounter, and amidst the discontent from the Old Trafford faithful regarding the lack of attacking play on show from their team, there’s actually plenty to still be excited about as a United fan.
Whilst Anthony Martial has been enjoying plenty of plaudits for his excellent performances early in his Manchester United career, and Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger were the A-list signings the fans wanted over the summer, one man who’s really impressed in recent games is Jesse Lingard, the life-long United fan.
Perhaps it’s too soon to describe him as a forgotten man at United, but for a player who turns twenty-three in December, it was difficult to see when his chance was going to come in a United side which that has been buying plenty of talent, but failing to nurture its own.
Lingard, a graduate from the Manchester United youth academy, was part of the United side that won the 2010-11 FA Youth Cup alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison, and he made his senior debut for the club in the first game of the 2014-15 season, starting the game against Swansea City is Louis Van Gaal’s first competitive game as Manchester United manager. But the dream debut turned into a nightmare, when after only 24 minutes he challenged Ashley Williams for the ball and suffered a knee-ligament injury that ended his involvement in the game, and put an end to his season before it had even really begun.
A loan spell at Derby towards the end of the season helped return him to match fitness, and he was perhaps one of the only standout players in the England Under-21s limp performances in the European Championships during the summer, including an excellent goal against Sweden in the group stages.
He made his first appearance this season when he came off the bench in the game against Everton, and he made his first start of the season in the next game against CSKA in the Champions League.
It was in the Manchester derby where he was incredibly unlucky to see his late shot fly over Joe Hart but cannon off of the crossbar, which turned out to be the best chance of the game. His energetic performance in Tuesday’s win in the home game against CSKA included multiple chances to score, and his brilliant assist for Rooney’s goal; a lovely half-volley into the box that made it easy for the United captain to power home the winner.
And he was man of the match in Saturday’s encounter against West Brom, when his superb volley broke the deadlock in the second half. It’s been a long time coming, but the boy who would run around his garden in a Manchester United shirt and a ball at his feet, finally experienced what it’s like to score at Old Trafford in the Premier League.
If his performances continue to impress, he may even give Roy Hodgson a late selection headache in the run up to Euro 2016, especially if the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana struggle for fitness or form towards the end of the season, and Hodgson’s inclination to give youngsters a chance in the senior team continues. Also, the cynics will say Lingard may fancy his chances due to playing in a club in the top six.
But for now, he must solely concentrate on his performances for the Red Devils as they continue their challenge for the title this season, and he must continue to keep the likes of Depay and Ashley Young out of the side.