Jesse Lingard made his return to Manchester United’s starting line-up for the first time since the end of September.
Lingard played 79 minutes in the 1-0 win, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitting the lack of recent football caught up with him in the second half.
Solskjaer told BT Sport’s post-game coverage: “He has been out for a while. He started brightly, but towards the end he was a little bit tired.”
Teammate and captain for the night Scott McTominay spoke more glowingly about him. He praised Lingard’s display.
McTominay told the MEN: “Jesse was so, so good, he was causing real problems. It is a credit to him. He’s had a tough time Jesse and I am so pleased for him.”
By the numbers
Lingard created three chances in the win, the joint second highest of any player on United’s team, level with Juan Mata and behind only Alex Telles (6).
In his two starts this season, Lingard has created a combined seven goalscoring chances. Both of these came against Championship opposition in the cups, but this shows he may have more to offer.
Lingard had 73 touches in total, one more than McTominay who completed the game.
He also chipped in attempting to press, winning two tackles and also making one defensive clearance.
Happy to be playing again
This was Lingard’s first start at Old Trafford since the win over LASK in August. He posted on Instagram to express his happiness at being back.
It has now been more than a year since Lingard last made a Premier League start. His stock has fallen considerably since Bruno Fernandes joined, but he was trending downwards beforehand.
His problem at present is that even with the occasional bright spark of a cameo performance, he just isn’t going to get regular playing time.
With the transfer window open, there is speculation over Lingard’s future. At 28, he needs to be playing regularly to make up for a lost year, and he won’t get that at United.
Lingard’s performance at the weekend highlighted an issue for interested clubs, that his lack of recent football leave him needing to get up to speed in term of fitness and match sharpness. For teams looking at instant impact loans rather than a longer term investment, this may be a red flag.
However, Lingard showed at the weekend he still has a touch of quality, and if a club is willing to give him time and patience, he could be a shrewd addition.
If there are no takers, or Lingard doesn’t fancy the moves on offer, he at least still has the faith and support of his teammates.
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