Manchester United’s trip to Carrow Road today to face Norwich City in the FA Cup Quarter Final could be the last opportunity for Jesse Lingard to save his Manchester United career.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stated at the pre-match press conference that Lingard ‘will be involved against Norwich’ and that ‘hopefully he can kick on’.
The boss then added ‘Let’s see what the future will hold.’
The words may be vague but the message is clear: Lingard has to prove his value to the team.
Solskjaer will have to rotate his United side a lot in the coming weeks but whilst Champions League places are up for grabs, he is not going to risk selecting a player whose form and demeanour over the last two years have been consistently poor.
As things stand, Lingard is therefore highly unlikely to start another Premier League game unless he gives the Norwegian some reason to trust him again.
Today’s game could be his last chance to do that.
If Lingard is picked in the starting line-up, he will be expected to shine against a tired team of nearly-relegated players who have already played two games in the last eight days – a 3-0 thumping at home to Southampton and a dire 1-0 loss, also at home, to Everton.
In fairness, the 27-year-old will be lacking match sharpness but that should be more than compensated by the fact that he has ‘loads of energy’, as Solskjaer noted at the presser.
You get the impression that whilst the majority of fans have simply run out of patience with the Warrington-born man, the manager has been desperate to help him salvage his Manchester United career. If that still holds true, he will give him a central role in today’s game, most probably occupying the number 10 position as Bruno Fernandes is rested.
In the past, Lingard has reserved his best performances for the big occasions. He scored in the 2016 FA Cup final, the Community Shield of the same year and in the 2017 EFL Cup Final. Today’s trip to Norfolk could be every bit as important for Jesse as those classic occasions.
A man-of-the-match performance will propel him into Solskjaer’s plans for the climax of the season. A lacklustre performance will no doubt condemn him to the sidelines ahead of a summer transfer.
It is, in short, make-or-break time for Jesse Lingard.
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