The news aroused a level of resistance from some supporters, with some claiming that the Englishman – who has five goals in all competitions this season – hadn’t done enough to merit such an astronomical sum of money.
But Neville, when asked about Lingard’s new deal, was quick to leap to his defence.
“Criticism of him is unjustified, he’s done well and scored in two cup finals for United,” he said. “He’s done a very good job for Jose Mourinho, for United, gives his all in every single game; he loves the club, so I think that ultimately it’s a deserved contract.
“I think maybe the fans’ frustration sometimes is the fact that they want to see a Ronaldo or a Giggs all the time. You always need players like Jesse to support those types of players like Park because they balance off the talented players, do the work and fill in gaps.”
The combination of, as Neville notes, a lack of ‘highlight reel’ moments, flashy dance moves, off-pitch antics and a weekly wage 188 times bigger than the national average is perfect when it comes to angering a large section of this country’s footballing audience – especially your dad.
If you are one of these people, perhaps it is worth noting a couple of things: the first being that Lingard was given this new contract and didn’t somehow take the money himself, so your anger at the vast sum being handed his way is perhaps best directed instead towards the footballing franchise in general, or perhaps towards democracy’s sanctioning of uncapped investment in entertainment industries, but I’m not too keen on getting overly political on here.
Secondly, and more importantly, the fact that Lingard doesn’t dazzle supporters every week does not mean he is of little value to Mourinho. His running power, raw energy and unyielding desire to pour forward provides an important impetus in its own right; he is neither the catalyst nor end product of attacking movements, but rather the crucial intermediary factor in between.
With this in mind, slating somebody for receiving a reward for working hard at this club since the age of seven is a bit misplaced.