Jesse Lingard finally has stage to live up to 'English Iniesta' hype
Tonight could be Jesse Lingard’s moment to prove Rene Meulensteen’s comments about him to be true.
Former United assistant Meulensteen worked with Lingard in the academy while Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge.
He has frequently talked Lingard up, comparing him to Spanish legend Andres Iniesta.
He told Bleacher Report last year: “I saw so many similarities in their games, and I always believed that Jesse was the English Andres Iniesta.
“Like Iniesta, he finds these pockets of space, he is always on the move and has very good feet. The only thing missing until recently was goals, but now Jesse is scoring important goals too.
“In my opinion, you could fly Jesse to Barcelona, let him play in Iniesta’s position, and he would comfortably be able to do it and fit in. And he does it in the Premier League, which is more difficult than La Liga, so that is a credit to Jesse.”
Lingard, 26, got a taste of the big stage at the World Cup last summer.
This is as far in the Champions League as he has ever got with Manchester United while he has been a first team player for the club.
Lingard does not control games with ease in the same way Iniesta did, but at his best, he is at the heart of United’s attacks and has a real connection with striker Marcus Rashford.
This season he has a modest four goals and two assists. He needs to evoke memories of Paul Scholes in 2008 and return to the scoresheet against Barcelona.
This is Lingard’s first competitive fixture against Barcelona. It’s a tie he will have always dreamed of since he was a young boy.
Despite some indifferent performances of late, this is a game which can define his season, and his career.
This is his chance to live his dream, and show the world that Meulensteen was right about him all along.