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Manchester United

How Jesse Lingard is maturing into Manchester United’s creative hub

Martyn Cooke

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Jesse Lingard
Photo: Reuters

When the Premier League kicked off back in August which player would Manchester United supporters have expected to play the most crucial role in the season ahead?

Paul Pogba? Romelu Lukaku? Marcus Rashford?

The star-names roll off the tongue, yet very few, if any, fans would have mentioned Jesse Lingard.

The 25-year-old has always been on the periphery of the first team picture at Old Trafford. He has been blessed with an abundance of potential, something that he has periodically demonstrated, but the attacker’s career and progress has been undermined by inconsistency and the arrival of big-money, star-name signings.

However, Lingard has emerged as one of United’s most influential players this season and his continued improvement under Jose Mourinho has come at just the right time with the team struggling to keep pace with cross-city rivals Manchester City. He was on target again on Monday as The Reds secured a 2-0 victory at Goodison Park to underline just how important his contribution has been throughout the campaign, but especially in recent months.

The 25-year-old has scored seven goals in the Premier League so far this season and also has four assists to his name, with Sky Sports reporting that he has been involved in a goal every 84 minutes.

Lingard’s strike against Everton complimented braces against Arsenal and Burnley, including a last minute equaliser at Turf Moor, meaning that only Harry Kane has found the back of the net more times since the start of December. His progress is further demonstrated by the fact that he is into double figures for goals scored in all competitions for the first time in his career.

However, it is only recently that Lingard has been given the opportunity to shine. Mourinho only handed the 25-year-old his second start in the Premier League in late-November but seven goals in nine games has quickly repaid his manager’s decision.

The attacker appears to have matured from a youngster with potential into an individual who is willing to shoulder the creative responsibility at Old Trafford. It is significant that his rise to prominence this season and burst of good form has coincided at just the moment when Mourinho and United have been under the most pressure from supporters and the media.

Pep Guardiola’s revolution at the Etihad Stadium, injuries to key personnel and dropped points against lesser teams has pilled on the pressure in the red half of Manchester, yet Lingard has emerged as a reliable and central component of the trophy-chase at Old Trafford.

It is not only his goals and assists that have impressed in recent weeks. The attacker provides energy, enthusiasm and dynamism in United’s frontline but has become significantly more consistent with the quality of his distribution and decision-making. Examples of his technical ability are being produced on a more regular basis than ever before and his knack of creating or scoring goals at vital moments in games is an invaluable quality.

Lingard is now United’s second-highest goal scorer this season and he is a crucial component of Mourinho’s side as the club attempt to hang on to Manchester City’s coattails. He is on course to have the best season of his career, which will come as good news for England boss Gareth Southgate with the World Cup now looming ominously on the footballing horizon.

Lingard’s rapid development is good news for United, but it may be even better news for England.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

FA Cup

Three musts for Tottenham to achieve victory in their FA Cup semi-final

FA Cup success will be key to Tottenham’s season.

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Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur face off against Manchester United in a high-profile FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, undoubtedly marking their biggest match of the season.

Here are three things Spurs must do to secure their place in the May 19 final.

Get Eriksen involved

Christian Eriksen has perhaps been Spurs’ standout player this season, delivering consistently superb performances and chipping in with crucial goals.

In order for Spurs to gain the upper hand against the Red Devils, the Danish midfielder must control the game and be at the heart of every Spurs attack.

If Eriksen is at his unplayable best, he can combine effortlessly with the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, and break down the United backline with ease.

Keep Lukaku quiet

Romelu Lukaku presents United’s most potent goalscoring threat, and with 27 goals to his name this season, is enjoying a career-best year.

Lukaku came off the bench against Bournemouth on Wednesday and slotted home an assured finish, marking his eighth goal in his last ten appearances for club and country.

The Belgian’s red-hot form will give Tottenham’s centre-backs cause for concern, but his Belgian international teammates will have to be more than up to the fight to nullify Lukaku.

Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will know Lukaku’s strengths all too well and must be strong and resolute to deny the striker any whiff of goal.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Stop the feared United comeback

If Spurs end up taking the lead at Wembley, they must be vigilant of letting Manchester United back into the match.

The Red Devils have shown an incredible knack for getting back into matches; their 3-2 come-from-behind win at the Etihad is a prime example of that. United have also recently beat Crystal Palace after trailing 2-0, and clearly never consider themselves out of a match.

Tottenham must be mindful to not let their concentration slip when ahead, as Manchester United will surely make them pay.

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Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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Manchester United

Toby Alderweireld makes case for FA Cup inclusion with Brighton display

The Belgian international returned to starting action in the Premier League.

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Toby Alderweireld
Photo: Getty Images

For the first time since October, Toby Alderweireld started a Premier League match for Tottenham Hotspur, turning in an imperious defensive display as Tottenham drew Brighton 1-1.

On the back of his flawless performance, the 29-year-old Belgian centre-half surely deserves to start in Spurs’ FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Saturday.

On Tuesday night, the defender was seemingly unperturbed by the contract controversies that have overshadowed his season as he confidently marshalled the Tottenham backline while barely putting a foot wrong all match.

The centre-back dealt easily with 12-goal striker Glenn Murray, snuffed out many a through ball from the Seagulls, and contributed a number of intelligent slide tackles.

Alderweireld’s immense passing range was also on show, releasing Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura down the wing with delightful clipped balls.

It was an assured display that was in stark contrast to Davinson Sanchez’s hectic match against Manchester City on the weekend. The young Colombian defender, who has started in the place of the Belgian for all of 2018, looked out of sorts and shaky against City’s robust attack.

With Tottenham’s most important match of the season approaching against United, manager Mauricio Pochettino needs to restore Alderweireld to the starting lineup to avoid a similar defensive collapse against the Red Devils.

A defender of Alderweireld’s experience is far better suited to the enormous occasion and pressure of an FA Cup semi-final than the youthful Sanchez.

The Belgian dispelled any fears of rust after months out of the first team, easily slotting back into the squad and partnering well with international teammate Jan Vertonghen.

Pochettino must put petty contract disputes out of the way and focus on Tottenham’s best defensive set-up on Saturday, which means picking Toby Alderweireld alongside Vertonghen against Manchester United at Wembley.

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