When Jesse Lingard broke into the Manchester United squad in 2015, there were question marks immediately raised over why he was deserving of such a place.
There appears to be more scrutiny on those who have come through the academy and into the first team, than those who are bought for £80 million from a European club. The time span to impress the fans is far shorter if you are an academy graduate.

After four loan moves, all to Championship clubs, it was quite a surprise to see Louis van Gaal, the then United manager, give the Englishman a place in his squad for the 2015-16 season.

From Leicester City to Birmingham City to Brighton & Hove Albion and Derby County, Lingard was never one who impressed massively when at those clubs. Playing somewhere between 13-15 games per-season in England’s second division, the wide forward didn’t make enough of an impact to suggest that he was going to be playing week in, week out for the Red Devils, let alone be a future national team star.


Van Gaal showed faith in Lingard

At 23-years-old, it is commonplace to expect a player to have ‘made it’ at their club by that stage of their career. However, that wasn’t the case with Lingard, who left it very late in the day to break through at United and to be given a chance to truly show what he was capable of.

That came at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, where he was used by the Dutch manager to fill a weakness on both wings, being used wherever he was needed the most. His performances were quickly scrutinised and put under the spotlight, with many suggesting he was only in the squad due to coming through the academy.

Lingard did struggle initially when playing for the Red Devils, but no one can really blame him when coming into a team that was so bereft of confidence and attacking imagination. It would have been difficult for any young and inexperienced forward to impress and stamp their authority down.


Big game player

However, as time went on, the Englishman begun to warm to the game in the Premier League and his performances began to increase a level or two. He scored his first goal for his boyhood club against West Brom, in November of 2015, with a perfectly executed drive from outside the area. From there, Lingard’s confidence multiplied each week.

What has been remarkable on Lingard’s journey is his ability to turn up the ante in the highly pressurised games. He is not one to shy away when the going gets tough. It’s as if he embraces that aspect in certain situations and shouts back into the face of nervousness and self-doubt.

The goal that brought the most attention to Lingard in his budding career at the time was when he found the back of the net against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Making it his fourth goal of the season, Lingard’s ability to influence the bigger matches was born. It was a beautifully worked goal as the Englishman spun away from César Azpilicueta, controlled the firmly hit cross that was launched into the area, and connected with the ball with his second touch on the half volley to find the top corner of Thibaut Courtois’s net.


What’s wrong with enjoying yourself?

While the goal was mightily impressive, it was the celebration that was noted by his critics. The Dab. Where most of the anger surrounding Lingard comes from is his choice of celebration. It is supposedly a crime to dance and enjoy yourself when scoring a goal – as if you should tone it down when roaring through jubilation after scoring for your boyhood club; a team that you have supported all your life.

Where most of the anger and negativity stems from is through jealousy of those ‘fans’. Everyone wishes they were playing for the club they’ve supported throughout their whole life, but only a tiny, minute percentage are fortunate enough to do so. Lingard is one of those players and is resented because of it.

There are many other players with quirky and bombastic celebrations who slip under the radar because they’re a glossy signing that fans adore. And while that’s fine, it doesn’t mean that you should be negative towards an academy graduate who is so clearly loving his football and playing for the team he feels similarly to.


Sir Alex always backed Lingard to come good

Back in 2012, during Lingard’s first loan at the Foxes, Sir Alex Ferguson showed his wisdom and excellence in assessing quality.

“Jesse Lingard is going to be some player,” the Scottish manager said.

“He is 19, came through our youth system and is built like Jean Tigana was for France.

“He will become a player when he’s 22 or so. As an attacking midfielder he has got a really good talent. I think he will be a player we have high hopes for, definitely.”


And, as always, Ferguson was right in his knowledge of the player and predicted Lingard a star-studded career. So quickly has the Englishman rose through the ranks, he is now becoming a reliable player for the Three Lions, as well as his club.

Lingard has massively impressed the England management after two dazzling performances against the Netherlands and Italy, with rumours emerging that he could be in line to usurp Dele Alli’s position in the starting XI for the World Cup.

He might have come onto the scene later than most, but one thing is for certain, and that is, the Manchester United starlet is here to stay.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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