Gareth Southgate has warned Jesse Lingard to control his anger after the 23-year-old lost his cool during England’s 0-0 draw with Slovenia on Tuesday night.
With minutes remaining in what was a scrappy contest, tempers flared following a heavy challenge from Gary Cahill.
As players steamed in, Aljaz Struna stuck his fist into the throat of Marcus Rashford, causing Lingard to furiously confront the Slovenian defender.
Speaking after the game, Southgate made it clear that the Englishman – who picked up a booking for his troubles – ought to suppress his anger when tension begins to mount.
“I’m told he reacted to someone raising their hands at Marcus,” he said.
“That’s something he’s got to cut out. There’s a danger you get a red card in this sort of game when there’s inconsistency in a lot of the decisions. There’s even more of a risk.”
Southgate may condemn Lingard’s behaviour, but in the eyes of supporters, this was a rare moment of raw passion during an otherwise insipid evening. Yes, technically it was the ‘wrong thing to do’, but who didn’t love seeing Lingard stick it to three Slovenians after one of them laid a finger on Manchester United’s golden boy?
Sometimes football, even in its current globalised form, can become strictly primal, consisting purely of two sets of individuals going for each-other’s jugulars (quite literally, in this case). Behind the order of tactics, discipline and fair play lies a secret code of chaos – a secret code that revealed itself through Lingard’s sheer refusal to let anybody lay a finger on Rashford.
That kind of pure aggression, that sense of brotherhood, is something Man United fans will always admire.