Jesse Lingard’s form has been on a downward curve for quite some time now but last week reached a new low when he was left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
He was omitted from the squad even before suffering an injury away at AZ Alkmaar when he limped off.
The midfielder splits opinion over his output on and off the pitch, but how does he get his form back for Manchester United?
Why was Lingard dropped?
Like many of the stars of England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals – Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier and John Stones among them – Lingard failed to hit those heights again when the 2018/19 season kicked off.
He was briefly reinvigorated during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s interim reign but a malaise set in thereafter.
Lingard might have hoped his exploits out in Russia and the fact he has never let England down would have been enough to spare him the axe.
In truth, that’s probably why he hasn’t been dropped sooner. His lack of Premier League goals and assists in recent months went viral in August, and before that, many England fans had been calling for him to get dropped.
A player with Lingard’s outgoing personality and playing for United is always going to draw criticism from England fans.
But that is especially so when his output is so poor for a player in his position. An England snub may have marked a new low but it was a long time coming.
So how does he get his form back?
The first thing to note is during the World Cup, Lingard was playing a box to box central midfield role.
It’s perhaps tempting to wonder whether a manager in the Pep Guardiola mould would have tried him there in a 4-3-3 at United, with him and Paul Pogba bombing on either side of a sole holding midfielder.
That might be worth a try, but the onus falls on Lingard to improve.
When fielded as a number ten, he has the tendency to slow the game down and amble into pockets of space as if he’s a playmaker in the style of David Silva.
In actual fact, his game is all about buzzing around the pitch, pressing from the front and using his energy to stretch teams and pull them out of position – he has to bring his exuberant off-field persona onto the grass.
Also, there’s a misconception that he’s a young player – perhaps because of how he acts off the pitch and his friendship with Marcus Rashford.
But it’s also exacerbated by a lack of consistency. Even when he has a good game, it’s followed up by an anonymous one. At 26, he has to improve on that.
Solskjaer needs to know he can rely on him to produce; in terms of work rate, technical quality and decisive contributions. Lingard drifts out of games too easily at present.
The likes of Mason Mount and James Maddison are in danger of usurping Lingard at international level and knocking him out of the squad for Euro 2020. He may be lacking confidence, and a goal will certainly do him good. It is up him, United need him to start showing something.
It is unclear at this point if he will be passed fit to face Liverpool. If he is and is selected, then a starring performance in a victory would be a great way to get back on track, although recent form suggests it may be unlikely.
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