Manchester United’s flying winger Jesse Lingard will be on cloud nine this week after receiving his England call-up for the friendly against France.
Not only has the attacker forced his way into the selection process for both club and country, but he also now has Adidas and Nike fighting over him for his signature.
It’s been some turnaround for the English midfielder who actually made his debut for the Red Devils last season, but due to an unfortunate leg injury, was replaced by Adnan Januzaj after 24 minutes.
It’s not been plain sailing for the 22-year-old, but it now looks like he’s finally starting to flourish in the famous red strip.
It has been a long time coming but now the Manchester-born youngster finds himself in-and-around the first-team. He’s one of the few forwards in United’s front-line that is shining through a patch of lacklustre attacking football. So, good on him.
Since the 17th of October, Lingard has been either used as a substitute for Juan Mata, or in some cases, starting ahead of him. It’s been a brave call by Louis Van Gaal – who’s most commonly known to blood youngsters and raise them – but one in which we’re seeing great promise.
Going into the Manchester Derby, United were struggling for goals and their attacking display was fruitless; it was a similar story for 67 minutes at Old Trafford on the 25th of October. Unimaginative and uninspiring are two words that described Van Gaal’s team perfectly.
However, when Lingard came on for Mata, the wide-player changed the complexion of the game. He provided impetus, direct attacking threat and an end product for Wayne Rooney or Anthony Martial to feed off. The youngster even went close with the winner when he flicked the ball from a Martial cross onto the bar – inches away from his first senior goal for his boyhood club.
Two weeks later and the dream goal finally arrived, against West Brom. Although United were far more creative than in recent weeks and mustered plenty of shots on-goal, the game was still at a deadlock come half-time.
It took a Lingard piece of magic to break the Premier League goal drought with a peach of a finish past Baggies goalkeeper, Boaz Myhill. The curling shot that whistled past the American goalkeeper showed his natural composure, skill and eye for goal.
By selecting him all those weeks ago at Goodison Park – a ground where United haven’t had the best results in recent times – it was as if Louis van Gaal was try to put forward a message of intent to his payers.
Apart from Wayne Rooney’s, no place in the team is guaranteed. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, whether you’ve won the World Cup or Champions League, if you’re not performing to the required standards, you will be replaced by a younger, hungrier graduate that’s willing to prove he can play at the top level.
With academy graduate in the Manchester United starting eleven, the Red Devils look a better side.
A more organised outfit in attack that deliver a genuine offensive threat. It’s not perfect – and we’ll find out more about it in the Champions League – but it’s most definitely a step in the right direction.
Lingard’s chance came to him – after years of waiting – and he’s taken it with great conviction that has earned him an England call-up.
It should be emblematic to all young academy graduates out there, that, once blessed with a first-team opportunity, dig deep and take it with two hands. And never, ever let go.