The most remarkable aspect of Jesse Lingard’s impressive season is the instinctive tendency to cheer the success of an England youngster breaking through at Manchester United. But in reality, the England international is surprisingly 25 years of age – far from a young prospect.
The enigmatic late bloomer continued his superb run of form with the winning goal in Amsterdam on Friday night, helping England to its first win over Netherlands in over 20 years. Lingard was rewarded with a start in a eclectic England starting XI that featured a multitude of right backs, and shone as the Three Lions’ standout player.
The Manchester United attacker earned a richly deserved Man of the Match award for his efforts, due to an all-action performance filled with energetic pressing, intelligent passes, and topped off with a crisply-struck goal from 20 yards.
The superbly well-taken strike marked Lingard’s first goal for England in just his ninth cap. Big goals have been a feature of Lingard’s best season to date; the winger scored an emphatic double against Arsenal in December and bagged the crucial winner against Chelsea in February.
Eight goals to date mark Lingard’s most productive year since the 25-year-old broke into the Manchester United first team in the 2015/16 season. Before that, Lingard had struggled during loan spells at a variety of Championship clubs including Birmingham City, Brighton, and Derby.
Now a possible contender for an England starting role this summer at Russia, Lingard seems to be finally hitting full form at the perfect time. Unlike fellow United star Marcus Rashford, Lingard did not break on to the scene as a teenager, but blossomed in his mid-20s.
Yet the winger must now turn his focus to matters at his club, where he had disappointingly fallen down the pecking order after the January arrival of Alexis Sanchez. Nonetheless, after the Chilean failed to meet high expectations at Old Trafford, Lingard was recalled to the starting lineup and led United to a 2-0 win over Brighton, securing the Red Devils a place in the FA Cup semi-finals.
If Lingard is to stake a claim for an increased England role, he must continue his career-best season at Manchester United. And once the World Cup rolls around in June, the late-blooming star could provide the Three Lions with a deadly cutting edge.