Jesse Lingard has opened up about his England breakthrough and a potential first ever appearance for his country.
The 23-year-old received his first ever international call-up from Roy Hodgson for a friendly against France in November, only to remain on the bench.
However, with World Cup qualifiers with Malta and Slovenia lingering on the horizon, Lingard – clearly rated by interim coach Gareth Southgate, who observed the Englishman’s progression with the Under 21s – could pick up his first ever international cap.
Speaking ahead of England’s contest with Malta on Sunday, Lingard insisted he is ready for the challenge of international football.
“It feels like the right time to break into the England squad. I am playing for my club every week and doing well,” he said.
“I have played most of the games (under Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho). It’s been really good and he’s put faith in youngsters like me. It really gives you confidence.
“Plus with Gareth being the England manager, I know him well from the Under-21s for many years and I know what he’s about.
“He is very laid back, very relaxed around the camp but as soon as you’re on the football pitch, he is determined to get the team right.”
International football is a realm of its own. Moving from club football to international football is not, like often thought, a seamless, almost unconscious transition.
England, in a non-major tournament year, play approximately 10 games a year, meaning that the squad, as a unit, know very little about eachother. What this means, I guess, is that more emphasis is placed on individual talent, composure and instinct. Football may be team game, but the realm of international football can be a lonely place.
Lingard, therefore, will have to adapt his game and bear a greater level of individualism when wearing the England shirt. Man United fans will be curious to see how the Englishman – a subject of ambivalence amongst some supporters – performs under Southgate.