Manchester United have always been a club who pride themselves on giving an opportunity to young players from the academy. In United’s illustrious history, there have been countless chances given to youngsters brought through by the club.
There is an incredible statistic that the club should be proud of; in 4098 consecutive competitive first team games, there has been at least one player who has been produced by the academy in the matchday squad. This extraordinary figure dates back around 100 years, to before the start of World War Two, and is something that will surely only increase in decades to come.
One of the many players who has contributed to this record is Jesse Lingard, a man who has given so much for his boyhood club throughout his career. Lingard has scored some memorable goals for United since his debut in 2014 against Swansea City.
None more so, however, than his sublime winner in the 2016 FA Cup final against Crystal Palace, to win his first major trophy as a professional footballer. He has also scored in the Community Shield against Leicester City and the Carabao Cup final against Southampton.Embed from Getty Images
However, Lingard has found his opportunities at United somewhat limited in recent years, meaning he joined West Ham United on loan for the second half of last season. He thrived at the London Stadium, scoring nine times, and assisting four in just 16 Premier League appearances.
Lingard’s season so far
Lingard returned to Old Trafford this season following his phenomenal end to the 2020/21 season, hoping to stake a claim for a regular start under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Although he has only started one game this season, against West Ham in the Carabao Cup, the Englishman has still made an impact off the bench for Solskjær’s side, scoring twice in the league, against Newcastle United at Old Trafford, and the winning goal away to West Ham.
Lingard also grabbed a vital assist in United’s 2-1 win against Villarreal, setting up Cristiano Ronaldo for the winner.Embed from Getty Images
Whilst Lingard has enjoyed personal success this season for United, he also had a tough moment away to BSC Young Boys in the Champions League. His misplaced back pass to David De Gea was pounced upon by striker Jordan Siebatcheu to give the Swiss side the win late on.
Despite this, however, Lingard seemed to bounce back well in the games that followed, with his wonder-goal winner against West Ham and his assist against Villarreal both coming after United’s trip to Bern.
There has also been a spot for Lingard in both England squads this season. He made a superb contribution in England’s 4-0 win against Andorra at Wembley, scoring two goals and grabbing an assist.
Although England are yet to play their first game of the October international break, at the time of writing, Lingard will certainly be hoping for another start in Gareth Southgate’s side.Embed from Getty Images
What could the future hold for Lingard?
Lingard’s future at United is still somewhat up in the air. The 28-year-old’s current deal expires in the summer, and there will no doubt be clubs interested in signing him up on a pre-contract in January.
If United were to extend his contract, it would be interesting to see how he fits into the side in the long run. At the moment, Lingard is only making fleeting appearances off the bench, and whilst he has seen general success in these situations, he, like every player, surely wants to start more regularly.
However, his recent form is arguably enough to warrant at least one Premier League start. There was a strong case made by many that Lingard should’ve started United’s last league game, against Everton, on either the left or right wing. As it happened, Anthony Martial started instead, in a game that saw him score his first goal of the season.
The big question Lingard must ask himself is how much game time he will get, should he decide to sign a new deal and stay at Old Trafford. Manchester United aren’t exactly short of attacking options at the moment, although Lingard is certainly good enough to be able to compete with these players and win his place as a starter.
There are only two things that could happen when it comes to Lingard’s future. He may decide he is happy to stay at United, and United themselves decide they want to keep Lingard. If this is the case, it is surely the right decision to keep him at the club. He has a lot to offer United in the future, and United know they are retaining a player with exemplary work ethic and attitude, something which is obviously never a bad thing.
This, coupled with his form over the last 10 months, which he can hopefully maintain, means United will be keeping a player who will get you goals and assists, whether as a starter or as a substitute.Embed from Getty Images
All of this is, of course, speculation. It may be that Lingard feels that a move away from United is the right thing to do at this point in his career. There would certainly be no shortage of clubs queuing up to sign him, whether in January at a reduced price or for free next summer.
Lingard will almost certainly have his sights set on representing England at the 2022 World Cup, and he could need regular game time to convince Southgate he deserves to make the squad, especially after narrowly missing out on being a part of England’s Euro 2020 squad.
Whatever happens in Jesse Lingard’s future, he has made an exceptional start to the present season. He is, at the very least, deserving of a Premier League start soon. Lingard’s form is something that I, and every other United fan, hope will continue for the rest of the season, and beyond.