This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Whisper it quietly, but Jesse Lingard is beginning to show signs of breathing some new life into his Manchester United career. The Red Devils ace has endured a miserable calendar year, and was set to end 2019 with his last goal coming against Arsenal in the FA Cup back in January. But after being given the honour of captaining the side against FC Astana in the Europa League last week, the 26-year-old has provided glimpses of getting back to form.
Having scored away in Kazakhstan, Lingard was named in the starting line-up against Tottenham on Wednesday night in arguably Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s biggest game in charge of the club. The pressure had well and truly been ratcheted up on the Norwegian in the build-up to the game, with the return of former boss Jose Mourinho adding to the touchline intrigue. But on the pitch, the United boss’ team selection was absolutely spot-on, and it was the man he deployed in the number ten role who was a pleasant surprise.
The Red Devils started the game on the front-foot, closing Spurs down early and with aggressive intent. A large part of that was down to the United midfield closing the space, and making the game as compact as possible. And as Marcus Rashford and Daniel James buzzed about from out wide, Lingard nipped and snapped at heels, looking to harass the visitors into mistakes deep inside their own half – it was perhaps unsurprising to see the England international make a team-high three fouls.
But whilst he proved to be an effective nuisance in terms of his off-the-ball work, the £36m-rated man also showed he is beginning to find his confidence back when in possession too. As per Sofascore, he made a game-high four key passes – more than double that of Dele Alli who had the second-most with two. Lingard’s unselfishness helped his game enormously, laying off quick first-time passes to the likes of Rashford and James to fire off efforts on goal.
The biggest approval of his impressive display came from the United fans themselves, who gave him a nice ovation when he came off towards the end of the game. It may still be early days yet, but the attacking midfielder is slowly but surely getting back into his groove.