Paul Pogba is grabbing all the headlines at Manchester United right now; that frosty training ground exchange with Jose Mourinho has been seen by one and all.
The whys and wherefores; who is to blame, who will remain at United longer and more are for another article.
The practical upshot is that Mourinho’s most creative central midfielder is unsettled, underperforming and unhappy.
Pogba has been United’s greatest hope of building a physical, dominant central midfield since his arrival in 2016.
Lingard can be the alternativeThat same hope is surely the main argument for keeping him at the club; in the face of the petulance, inconsistency and public defiance. United fans simply do not believe they have anybody who can drive them forward from central midfield like him.
Perhaps, at the moment, they are right. But Jesse Lingard’s performances in a deeper midfield role for England at the World Cup show he could well be that man.
Gareth Southgate realised in the summer that Lingard plays better centrally; he has often played wide on the right under Mourinho at Old Trafford.
Even when Lingard gets the nod through the middle, as was the case on Tuesday night against Derby, he has often been unable to influence proceedings.
Southgate’s blueprintMany say Pogba’s best position is on the left of a midfield three, with the freedom to burst forward.
That is exactly where Lingard – valued at £36m by Transfermarkt – flourished for England during the summer, albeit in Southgate’s aggressive 3-5-2 formation.
Unlike Pogba, Lingard displayed an unflinching willingness to work diligently for the side and tactical awareness to plug the games.
He may currently lack Pogba’s gamechanging attributes, but generally provides a baseline level of performance and commitment higher than the Frenchman’s. He has energy, quality and loves the club; moving him into a deeper role and letting him drive forward could bring out Lingard’s best form; and help Mourinho forget all about Pogba.