Jesse Lingard continues to add new peaks to what has ended up being the best season of his professional career. The Manchester United forward, who previously had loan spells with Leicester City, Birmingham City, Bright & Hove Albion and Derby County before breaking into United’s first team in the 2015/16 season under Louis van Gaal, ended this campaign with 13 goals for his club in all competitions. Given that he’d managed 6 and 5 goals in his previous two seasons at the club, that represents some serious improvement, and after stunning efforts against Watford, Derby and crucial strikes against Chelsea and Arsenal, the Warrington-born 25-year old has become a regular fixture for Gareth Southgate’s England side.
Indeed, Lingard scored the pick of the bunch during England’s 6-1 thrashing of Panama last weekend, with a trademark long-range effort in the first half. And, if these comments carried by Sport Bible and originally aired on BBC Radio 5 Live are any indication, United legend Paul Scholes thinks his country affords him more freedom to perform than his club.
“Lingard’s form for England has been fantastic. I think, possibly, the manager for England has a little bit more belief in him than his club manager (Mourinho),” said Scholes this past week. “When things aren’t going well at Manchester United he’s the first man taken off, but with England I think Gareth really believes in him and gives him confidence. He’s really flourishing and thriving in that atmosphere.”
It’s difficult to argue with the assertion that Southgate would allow his players to play with more freedom than Mourinho; the Portuguese is famous for a more pragmatic approach, and the second half of last season was riddled with slow, plodding performances. Yet Lingard stands as an example of Mourinho taking a young player and improving him, helping him reach a consistent level with his output and performances that many thought was beyond him.