Jesse Lingard scored two goals and added an assist in England’s 4-0 triumph over Andorra. The 28-year-old has always been tantalizingly close to making Manchester United’s first squad but has always fallen just short of the requisite standard. His delicacy between the lines is unmatched among United’s players, as evidenced by his ability to float into pockets and execute smooth progressive passes from either wing. Despite his proclivity for drifting infield, Paul Pogba is a regular left winger, whereas the other of United’s wingers – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Anthony Martial – are more direct dribblers. Lingard has taken a major risk, and history says he made the wrong decision.
Lingard reportedly turned down a summer offer from West Ham, where he excelled last season, scoring nine goals in 16 games, in favor of fighting for a spot at Old Trafford. Over the course of seven years, he has only appeared in 133 Premier League games and has never started more than 20 games in a season. In other words, Lingard has spent at least half of his career on the bench as he nears the end of his prime. However, there are a number of tactical reasons why he could be a key player this season. Lingard seems to need to play regular football for the first time in his career to add ruthlessness to his game.
Even if Lingard can continue to score well beyond his predicted goals total (he scored nine goals from 5.72xG the previous season), proving that his performance in 2020-21 was the sign of a sharper edge, it will be a significant struggle. Sharpness is required to persuade others of Lingard’s abilities and value addition. Despite only appearing in 16 Premier League games last season, he had five-second assists’ (the pass before the assist), which was second highest in the division behind Bruno Fernandes’ seven.