There were plenty of positives to take from Manchester United’s game against CSKA on Tuesday night, least not the fact we actually scored, but Jesse Lingard‘s man of the match performance was one of the stand-out reasons to smile for me.
As Paul Ansorge from Bleacher Report wrote about in detail, Lingard evoked memories of how Man United should attack – he was direct, pacy and carried an element of attacking verve and risk to play. It didn’t all work out for him but it was ultimately his cushioned pass which Wayne Rooney headed into give United a crucial win over CSKA Moscow.
Speaking in an interview back in May 2014 about whether Sir Alex told him when he’d be ready for the first-team, Lingard said: “Yeah because of my development and size and my physique, he said I’d be ready at around 22/23.
“Obviously I was hoping to do it quicker than that but coming here on loan [Brighton & Hove Albion] has given me a massive confidence boost.”
Lingard’s cruel injury at the start of last season stopped him from breaking through in 2014 but this year he has looked like the real deal, especially against CSKA. There were plenty of mistakes, don’t get me wrong, but just his natural desire to run at defenders and actually have the ability to drive past them is something only Anthony Martial has been able to do on a consistent basis.
It’s a big year for Lingard and he’s started it off very well but as Sir Alex knew all along, this is exactly what he expected to see so there are no surprises with his development in that regard.