Manchester United find themselves firmly in the Premier League title mix after 12 games of the new campaign, but most of the Old Trafford faithful have been relatively underwhelmed by the performances put in by Louis van Gaal’s side this season.
Although the outspoken Dutchman has firmed up his backline and bolstered his options in the centre of midfield, the Red Devils still find themselves wanting in the final third.
The individual exploits of Anthony Martial have papered over the cracks as club captain Wayne Rooney and big-money signing Memphis Depay have failed to consistently deliver.
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However, with van Gaal maintaining that he will stay true to young players despite the club’s expansive transfer policy, a new star in attacking areas may well get a chance to prove himself.
Jesse Lingard is widely acknowledged as one of the brightest young lights in the Old Trafford ranks but has had to bide his time for an opportunity in the United first team to show what all the hype was about.
However, impressive performances of late show that the gifted winger could well be the man to add invention, pace and penetration to the team’s efforts in the final third.
Lingard scored his first Premier League goal for the Red Devils in the recent 2-0 win over West Brom, taking a half-chance from the edge of the Baggies penalty box with confidence and assurance.
Up until that point the hosts had toiled and struggled to break Tony Pulis’ men down, with the United fans urging their side to attack and not merely keep the ball in non-threatening positions.
After impressive loan spells elsewhere and excelling at youth level for his country, Lingard is now ready for regular Premier League football but the question is just how much of it he will get at Old Trafford.
Despite the style of play that van Gaal has adopted not setting the division on fire, United have plenty of individual talents available and competing for the four most progressive positions in the team.
The likes of Rooney, Martial, Memphis, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and others are all in the mix, but what seems most likely to dictate how much football Lingard gets is the role that the captain operates in most frequently.
If Rooney is deployed in the number ten role with Martial in the striker berth, it opens up an opportunity for van Gaal to field Lingard on the left.
However, if the Dutch trainer decides to play Rooney as the furthest man forward, as he did away to Everton recently, Martial is likely to take Lingard’s role on the flanks.
One way or the other, Lingard looks like a young player full of promise and able to make a difference for a United team that has lacked inspiration in attack at times this term.
Van Gaal’s pledge to stand by youth will be tested in the winger’s case, especially if the club splurge on more attacking recruits in the January window.