After his sprightly and driven performance against CSKA Moscow – where after a poor first 45 minutes he was Manchester United’s main threat in the second half – it was no surprise to see Jesse Lingard earn his first league start of the season against West Bromwich Albion.
Steadily, having been involved in each of the last seven games in some capacity, Lingard has not only proven to Louis Van Gaal that he is a dependable winger in both defence and attack, but he’s also managed to win over the United faithful thanks to his tireless, driven, and direct displays.
In the second half against CSKA Moscow when the crowd was beginning to turn and even United’s most experienced players were dawdling and looking nervous and aimless on the ball, Lingard was the one who drove at the Russian’s defence.
And he ultimately got his rewards, providing the assist for Wayne Rooney with a precise, volleyed cross that stemmed the tide of abuse heading Louis Van Gaal’s way.
It was his finest moment in a Red Devils shirt. Until Saturday. When with United again deadlocked, this time against Tony Pulis’ dogged West Brom, Jesse Lingard curled home the first goal of the game to give United an impetus that they never looked like relinquishing.
There was an ugly directness mixed with a spontaneous composure to Lingard’s goal, each of which are traits that he has already showcased numerous times in United red.
Picking up the poor, bobbling headed clearance around 22-yards out, just to the left of the West Brom goal, Lingard immaculately bounced the ball down with one touch before then almost instantly curling the ball towards the corner.
Lingard didn’t hit the ball perfectly, or even cleanly, and it could even afford a solitary, unseemly bounce between leaving his right boot and arriving in the corner, but it was direct enough to mean that Boaz Myhill’s dive/collapse to stop it was in vein.
Throughout his recent run in the team Jesse Lingard has managed to slowly capture attention without really excelling in any department. As Louis Van Gaal pointed out in his post-match interview on Saturday, Jesse Lingard “is not the most speedy winger in the world,” while he also doesn’t have an array of tricks to tease past players with.
Instead, it’s his drive, determination, grit and passion that have put him in good stead. Just look at his performance at home against CSKA. Having failed to shine in the first half, and knowing fully well how ruthless Louis Van Gaal can be, Lingard took it upon himself to get on the ball and then to always try and move forward with it.
And with most of his Manchester United cohorts repeatedly passing the ball sideways and seemingly trying to bore the opposition into letting them score, Lingard’s energetic attempts to try and take the game to them is becoming more and more satisfying to see.
It’s no coincidence then that these are also exactly the same reasons why he has usurped Memphis Depay in Manchester United’s starting eleven. While there’s no doubting that the Dutch star has talent, it’s been quite a while since we even saw flashes of his ability.
And since the defeat at Arsenal in early October, where Depay was rightly yanked off at half time, his confidence has been shot. He has remained an unused substitute in three of the last seven games – one of which he admittedly missed through injury – while his incompetent performances from the bench against CSKA away and at home were only eclipsed when he actually started against Middlesbrough in the League Cup.
Memphis Depay needs to press restart on his Manchester United career. And when he does, he then needs to take inspiration from the uncomplicated, professional approach of Jesse Lingard, before then patiently incorporating some of the mercurial touches and talent that convinced United to spend £25 million on him back into his game.
Until he does just that, Warrington born Jesse Lingard will remain ahead of him in the pecking order. And with most of the Old Trafford faithful having been nonplussed by Depay’s showings and attitude since his arrival, they will be more than fine with the local lad done good.