Jesse Lingard’s chip showed that his Man Utd career isn’t a write-off just yet
You could argue that Jesse Lingard is perfect for occasions like England’s 4-0 thrashing of Andorra on a warm Sunday afternoon at Wembley.
The crowd at the national stadium was noticeably less aggressive and edgy than the one assembled for the Euro 2020 final, with paper aeroplanes flying around and the general air of a family day out at auditions for the X-Factor than a football match.
And Lingard fits the friendly vibe well – a footballer who’s immensely marketable but lacking the seriousness of more grizzled and elite players. A player who’ll never quite make the best Xl but is destined to be wheeled out for Carabao Cup matches and tussles with Andorra.
Or, at least, that’s what convention would tell you.
After a few years of stagnation on the bench at Manchester United, Lingard was revitalised by his loan spell at West Ham last season. Relishing the responsibility handed to him by David Moyes, the midfielder was a revelation and his nine goals helped the Hammers secure Europa League qualification.
Many expected a permanent move to be a formality but, as we sit here in the dog days of summer, Lingard remains at Old Trafford. Although not many are predicting he’ll play much after United secured moves for Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But there was enough evidence yesterday to suggest Lingard could force his way into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s thinking.
There was a smartly taken goal, one of two for the midfielder, controlling a Bukayo Saka pull-back and dragging his shot into the corner. His subsequent homage to Ronaldo’s iconic ‘siuuuu’ celebration may have been signposted weeks in advance, but that didn’t detract from its charm.
But his real moment of class came a few minutes later. Debutant Patrick Bamford picked up a poor defensive header and flicked the ball in behind the defence for Lingard to chase onto.
Yes, he was already a few yards offside but tell that to Josep Gomes. The Andorra goalkeeper was sat down by a composed Lingard and watched turf prone as the ball was scooped over his head and nestled in the net.
It’s times like these that remind you that referees are killjoys ready to disallow moments of brilliance because of little things like ‘the rules’.
“We know Jesse has a challenge and he knows he has a big challenge with the quality of attacking players at United,” Gareth Southgate said after the game. “But they’ve also got a lot of matches in different competitions so hopefully he can take that challenge on and he will take that challenge on.
“He has rebounded brilliantly in the last 12 months from a difficult period and he has shown that he has got quality. It is not necessarily the quality of the opponent but it is performing with the quality of players that we have and stand out. That shows his level of quality.
“I know that I have had criticism for including him in squads but he is just a player that always plays well for us.”
Touche, Gareth. Lingard may be written off by many as a meme, but he always seems to pop up with moments of quality whenever entrusted with a starting spot.
Maybe his United career isn’t the write-off that some have argued.
By Michael Lee