England manager Gareth Southgate has defended his decision to include Jesse Lingard in the first-team squad despite admitting the player isn’t in the best of form.
The versatile attacker has been heavily criticised by Manchester United fans for his rather anonymous performances of late with even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dropping him in the disappointing draw against Southampton.
Juan Mata started that fixture in the number ten role but even he unfortunately couldn’t inspire his side to a much needed win.
Lingard was publicly protected by Solskjaer much to the annoyance of the supporters but he was never going to criticise the academy product in front of everyone.
United’s problems are bigger than the 26 year old’s form anyways with their poor start to the season seeing them languish in eight place already.
According to the Independent, Southgate said: “I think you’d have to say I’ve seen him have better spells for United.
“I think Ole has a young, energetic team, and I think Jesse’s pressing and the energy he brings to that has been an important part of what they’ve tried to do in the first few games.
“The inclusion of Jesse for us is partly because his form for us has always been good.
“I know there was stats on his goals. He was only involved in four games for us last season because of injury – two starts and two off the bench.
“He scored two and had a goal disallowed when he came on in the Nations League game. He had a very good World Cup.
“When you’re selecting a team, there’s half an eye on club form but also I don’t remember a game where he’s been really poor for us.
“He has different attributes. I think for him and for everybody else, there is serious competition and if they aren’t scoring for us or they aren’t scoring for their clubs, that can make things more difficult.
“But, equally, I think it’s good that we support him at this moment, in that you could argue club-wise, he’s on the fringes and whether he should be ahead of others.
“But I don’t think there are too many that we haven’t included that should be ahead of him, and his performance for us has been very, very good.”
It’s probably for the same reasons Solskjaer plays Lingard that he keeps him on board despite the poor form.
The talented Englishman’s pace, energy and pressing ability are all crucial to the legendary Norwegian’s style of football.
Unfortunately until a better attacking-midfielder is brought into the club, it’s likely fans will see plenty of Lingard this season.
The question is how does Solskjaer help him regain the form that saw him so highly praised just over a year ago?