Jesse Lingard was back on the bench for Manchester United against RB Leipzig.
To be back amongst the matchday squad was progress for Lingard. He has had a very frustrating past few months.
Lingard’s last game came as a substitute in the Carabao Cup win over Brighton at the end of September.
Since then he has struggled to win a place in the squad, been out with injury, and then sidelined after coming into Covid contact. Now he is available and ready to feature again.
Here is a look at three reasons why this weekend could be the right time to put Lingard back in…
He’s fresh and motivated
Jesse Lingard has waited what will seem like an eternity to him for an opportunity. And in fact he has not started a Premier League game since January.
So if he gets his chance, Lingard will want to make the most of it and deliver.
United’s squad need his energy right now. He would be coming into the team at a moment the side need a boost, at a time when morale has taken a little bit of a hit.
With a big Champions League game upcoming, this would be a sensible way for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to rotate his squad. Lingard is not a starter in big games, but he is a squad player, and this is the type of situation in which he should be used.
Marcus Rashford is dealing with a shoulder injury and United will want to conserve him for Tuesday. If United go with a 4-2-3-1, Lingard could play wide left or wide right.
Alternately he could start in a central attacking role, with Bruno Fernandes coming off the bench, if Donny van de Beek plays in a deeper role.
He has looked bright in ‘recent’ appearances
When he came back into the team at the end of last season, Lingard actually picked up a little.
He scored in United’s final game of the season against Leicester City, and then again versus LASK.
When he started his only game of this season so far against Luton, he created four chances.
It at least shows Lingard is prepared to fight for his place, and can bring something to the table.
United should be confident that if he plays, he has a good chance of contributing in a positive way.
Shop window factor
Long term, Jesse Lingard probably does not have much of a future at Old Trafford. That has become clear in 2020.
There were no takers in the summer, so he stayed put at United.
While he is here, we might as well get some use out of him when the squad can benefit from rotation.
The match may also help put him in the shop window, for January or to start building a case for next summer.
West Ham were one of the few Premier League clubs linked with a move for Lingard in the summer, The Independent reported, citing the David Moyes factor.
Lingard doing a good job against the Hammers could persuade them, or others, to act on that interest. And if he does not hit form, well, at least he is playing again.
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