Jesse Lingard completed his first full 90 minutes since returning from injury in Manchester United’s U21s tie against Liverpool this week.
The 22-year-old played an important role in Man United’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool and it was a major step towards his return to first-team football.
Back in December, Louis van Gaal sang the praises of Lingard and said he was very pleased with how his recovery had gone, which should fill Lingard with confidence that his manager is keeping a close eye on his progress.
It was a bitter blow for Lingard to suffer a major knee injury during his full senior debut but he is looking forward to working hard in order to force his way back into Van Gaal’s plans.
“It’s obviously amazing to be back,” Lingard said after United’s win against Liverpool.
“It’s been good and to get the three points is the cherry on the top really because it was against Liverpool.
“I think I’m very close now [to full fitness]. I started the Norwich game and played about 70 minutes but began cramping up. I had a behind-closed-doors game and played the full 90 minutes in that, and another 90 minutes here, so I feel really good.
“The physios and backroom staff worked with me from day one to get the knee right. I don’t think the boss wanted to rush me into any games really, especially as he said I would come back at the end of the December when, in fact, it was the start [of the month]. I thought the boss didn’t want to rush me and now I feel it’s the right time to get back playing.”
In Luke Shaw‘s absence on the opening day of the season, Van Gaal chose to play Lingard ahead of Ashley Young at left wing-back which was a testament to his trust in the youngster given how well Young had played on the pre-season tour.
However, Lingard is now keen to play in a more natural attacking role.
“I like getting on the ball and making things happen,” he added. “It was hard in the first half due to Liverpool’s two sitting midfielders but we broke them down in the second half with our game plan.
Obviously, Juan [Mata] plays there and Wazza [Wayne Rooney] can play there as well,” added Lingard, referring to the role behind the strikers. “But I’ll keep doing in training what I do, day in and day out, and back my ability.”
It’s great to see Lingard back in action and now he has to knuckle down to earn his opportunities under Van Gaal because he faces a tough task earning a spot in the first-team with so much competition ahead of him.