In light of his recent contract renewal talks, this week the Red Thoughts team exchange their views on Jesse Lingard and how they see his role at the club progressing.
JIM: Personally I think he has got a future at United, but I know a lot of people think differently. I think he’s a Ji Sung Park kind of figure – limited ability but works his a** off and is there when it matters.
DAN: Lingard, for me, has a big future at the club. He’s the sort of player Jose loves. He works hard for the team and links well. He can play in any of the 3 positions behind the striker, so he is flexible. He has a lot of talent but has a lot to work on as well. I can see him having a big role within the squad over the next few years.
TOM: He deserves every credit for the patience he has shown, so many young players are looking to move on for the ‘good of their career’ if they haven’t broken into the first team by the time they are 19/20. But Jesse has stuck it out, never kicking up a fuss, just doing his best in the hope he’ll break through at the club he loves. I think Jesse definitely has a future and to be honest I think he’s something of a late bloomer. I think for now he definitely is just a squad player, but if he continues to develop he could end up being a consistent starter.
BETS: I’m not a fan of Lingard. I love to see products of our youth system being brought through to the first team, but some seem to get far more chances than others for reasons that aren’t obvious to me. Yes, he can work hard on the pitch, but I’ve seen the work rate go right down when he’s not fighting for his place. He’s also inconsistent, he does have some good games and rarely has a stinker (although he did against City in the PL) but he’s usually just somewhere between steady and anonymous. If indeed, as Tom says, he’s a late bloomer, it’s going to be very late, as he turns 24 in a few weeks. For most players that’s their peak.
I suspect he’s a “company man”, another Darren Fletcher or Jonny Evans, a guy who’s United through and through, a teacher’s pet in training and in the dressing room, the kind of guy that gets far too much playing time and attention because they are liked by the coaching team rather than because they’re good.
For me, he’s a James Milner type, or a Darren Anderton. And would I want either of them in my United side? No. These steady Eddies are OK in defensive positions, but wingers need to have more trickery, skill and unpredictability about them. So for me Lingard is, at best, a squad player, but deep back in the squad, certainly not getting the playing time he gets now, and in all honesty I’d rather sell him to Sunderland or Everton and give that place to a younger player with more flair and talent.
TOM: To say he’s a teacher’s pet who’s got his place on popularity is a bit of a stretch. Sir Alex had him on the bench a few times during his reign, he scored the first goal of the Moyes era, he started Van Gaal’s first competitive match and scored in a cup final for him and Mou seems quite keen on him. So that’s 4 different managers and to a degree different coaching staffs, so I think he’s made squads on merit. I agree, he definitely needs to add consistency to his game, but we shouldn’t be so quick to write players off if they haven’t completely established themselves by their late teens/early 20s. He is definitely a squad player at the moment, but every team needs their dependable workhorse types and I agree with Jim about him being a Ji Sung Park style player (or at least one in the making) – and we all love Ji Sung!
JIM: Ji Sung was and still is one of my favourite players. A real worker who loves the club and he didn’t deserve to end his career at little QPR.
BETS: I’ve been watching Lingard for 6 years, so I don’t think it’s fair to accuse me of being quick to write him off!
TOM: The “write off” comment was more an observation on football culture in general than a accusation at you, which is why I said ‘we’ shouldn’t be so quick to write players off. I think Vardy is a good example in that respect.
FAB: I am not a Jesse fan, as I don’t think that he is a great player in making. Actually I think he is pretty average, but what counts most in today’s football is commitment and the lad is a hard worker. Maybe he is no Rashford or Angel Gomes but he works to impress. In the current team, he would be like our wild card in a tough game. I don’t see him as a starter in every game, but that clearly doesn’t mean that Lingard won’t be part of the team in the future. He has waited for his opportunities and he is doing well so far. The City game in the PL was one to forget of course, as his performance was terrible, but if we were to judge a player by one game, imagine what would happen to many players.
Bets, not all our academy products that make it into the first team have to be amazing, because greatness comes with time. Jesse will be 24 soon and he has scored some important goals for United in the last season.
HEMOR: Does Lingard have a future at Manchester United? Yes and no, depending on what kind of future you’re talking about. As a quality backup player then yes, but as a starter I don’t think so.
Lingard has a high work rate, he’s always bumping up and down, he has the passion and he’s a proper team player, but he’s not skillful enough, neither does he have a lot of quality to make him become a permanent name on the team sheet for us unless we’re okay starting mediocre players. We need players at a very high level, Martial and Rashford can reach that level but I’m not so sure about Lingard.
Let’s not forget Lingard isn’t a small boy anymore, even though he has a small stature, he’s 23/24 years old. He has had a few years to hit his prime and he still doesn’t look very convincing. Memphis has higher probability of reaching a very high level than Lingard because he showed a lot of quality before he joined us, all he just needs is to find that form again and he’ll start improving from there. Lingard has never reached that kind of level even when he was on loan at smaller teams. This doesn’t mean I want to see Memphis in the starting lineup anytime soon though!
I’d love Lingard to prove me wrong and make me look like a fool for doubting him though.
RICK: As Hemor has said, Lingard at the moment is not good enough for the first team. But he keeps improving and if he can continue to do so, I have no problem with him being a regular. But when we play the top teams we have to play our best team and unfortunately he’s just not at that level. He’s never going to be a Rashford or Martial. He can maybe become as good as Rooney was, but only if he continues to develop under Mourinho. I must give Lingard credit though, he’s been good for us and Mourinho likes him. He reminds me of Solomon Kalou for Chelsea. He’s dependable, loves the club and will always give his best. So he definitely has a future at United, we’ll just have to wait and see how much he develops. He still has time on his hands, and Fergie always said he would be a late bloomer so hopefully he’s right.
COREY: Lingard to me seems like a poor man’s Park Ji Sung. He is picked for all the big games because of his work rate and his willingness to cover large areas of the pitch. He has no qualms about putting in a defensive shift as well as getting forward when needed.
I only have nice things to say about Lingard, however, if he is the best we can do then we have problems. I thought we looked a lot better after we took Fellaini off and brought on Mata against Chelsea. If we could combine Mata’s football intelligence and skills, with Lingard’s work ethic, we would have a gem of a player.
In the end I think Lingard has a place in the team, however I definitely want to see better quality in the lineup. Instead of playing squad players like Fellaini and Lingard, those starting positions need to be going to players that can take over a game, especially when heads are starting to dip.
REX: Lingard is a curious case. His speed and work ethic are what get him into the team over others. My only question would be, other than the whole ‘youth academy graduate’ thing, would top teams around the world like Bayern, Real etc etc have him in their starting 11? The answer is no. But as a damning indictment to our team, he makes the grade above others … so that should tell you where we are as a team.
So to answer the question, should he start/stay in this current team? Yeah … unless Mkhitaryan, Martial and Depay suddenly start firing on all cylinders, we’re fresh out of options. And even if we improve the squad, he’s not a bad rotation player to have.
TOM: I think the value of a squad player to a team is seriously undervalued, every team needs those workhorses who are prepared to play a lesser role. In today’s era of fickleness, it seems the expectation is we should have a 25 man squad of superstars, but not only do I believe it is not viable, it is inevitably damaging to a squad’s harmony and it’s not really the United way. Our academy is a big part of our heritage and it’s always good to see one of our own making his mark. Jesse is not going to set the world alight, but he is prepared to put in a shift and having grown up with the club, he gets the things the fans are passionate about and it’s good to have those influences around the imports, who are not necessarily as familiar with what pushes our buttons.
REX: I believe in work horses, but we can’t have our most creative positions occupied by workhorses – we have to be better. I can understand one or two in the middle, but United have always relied on wing play and it seems Mourinho is going back to it. If we have workhorses there all the time, then we’re not good or bad, just average. We need to be exceptional in those positions.
I’m not saying he shouldn’t feature, but he shouldn’t be what a club like United rely on, game in game out, to win titles.
Do you think Jesse has a future at United? Get involved in the debate by leaving your views in the comments.