Jesse Lingard has come in for a rollicking off the pitch this summer. One pundit even called on United to sack him.
But it’s on the pitch where Lingard faces his biggest challenge next season, especially if Bruno Fernandes signs.
Lingard’s bright form in January trailed off terribly afterwards. He didn’t net a league goal in 2019 or provide an assist.
The criticism he has received should force him to get his act together and focus. In itself, it’s worrying if it doesn’t.
Meanwhile United are strongly linked with attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes scored 32 goals in all competitions from midfield in 2018/19.
That’s one more than Lingard’s career total of 29 for United.
Playing in England and Portugal is different, but Fernandes will be expected to become an automatic starter.
That’s bad news for Lingard, who would have to settle for a place on the bench and earn his way into the line up.
At 26, after playing a World Cup semi-final a year ago, we should be talking about Lingard beginning to peak.
Instead he is stagnating. He needs competition and Fernandes will provide it.
The Express report Fernandes will cost £50 million plus. It will be worth it.
His set piece delivery is an asset in itself, and he could be in the mix as one of United’s top scorers.
If it causes Lingard to raise his own game along the way, and start being a valuable contributor again too, that’s great.