Playing with confidence for the first time in far too long, Jesse Lingard hit the form of his career last season at West Ham – and despite talk of a permanent move in the summer, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided against cashing in, and kept the England international.
There was a high amount of criticism around this decision. Understandably, United fans wanted a defensive midfielder and with most people still believing Lingard would barely play at United, it seemed sensible to sell him to make way for that midfield signing to come in. Although every United fan would do almost anything for a defensive midfielder right now, Lingard is still a fantastic player to have around.
A lot of uncertainty gathered from some United fans around whether Lingard was good or consistent enough. Many fans brought up that the last time he was playing regularly for United in 19/20, he had a very tough season – with an underwhelming one goal contribution in 22 Premier League appearances.
While under normal circumstances this would be a good point, Lingard himself revealed that he had struggled with mental health issues and that this was the main reason for his poor form and lack of confidence in that season. He’s made it clear that he’s no longer in a tough position off the pitch and he feels himself again – and he more than proved that on loan at West Ham, with 14 goal contributions in 16 Premier League games with them last season.
He’s only continued his fantastic vein of form at Manchester United this year, although understandably playing a more peripheral role due to the amount of talent United have at their disposal. Despite only starting one game all season so far, Lingard has proved exactly why he’s the perfect squad player for this Manchester United side.
Lingard has made five substitute appearances so far this season and proved himself to be a very effective super-sub with two goals and one assist from the bench, two of those being match winning contributions against West Ham and Villarreal.
There are a few things that make him so good at being a super sub. The sheer amount of energy he brings is really great to have; when you play Lingard you know you’re getting 100% out of him every time he plays and that’s even more effective when playing against tired legs towards the end of games. He’ll always do the defensive work which makes him not only good for when you need a goal, but also for when you’re defending a lead and need team players to help see the game out.
It’s clear with that, as well as his ability to find spaces and produce moments of brilliance like he did against West Ham, that he is perfectly suited to making a big impact off the bench. While he may not be as talented as Jadon Sancho or Bruno Fernandes for example, he still has a very important role to play, and I wouldn’t personally be against him signing a new deal at all – in fact I’d like to see it happen.
As Solskjaer will know better than most, you need players like him who love the club and may not be happy sitting on the bench, but will do it in order to help the team achieve big things – and that’s exactly what Lingard is.