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Jesse Lingard has improved leaps and bounds for Manchester United this season

First joining the Manchester United Academy at the age of seven, Jesse Lingard has come a long way in his United career and is beginning to grow in to a true star, putting in consistent and impressive performances for both club and country. Playing his way up through the youth set-up and signing his first professional contact in 2011, Lingard was part of the side that lifted the 2010/11 FA Youth Cup.

However, despite showing bags of potential in the Academy, Lingard struggled to break in to the Manchester first team making only two appearances and missing out on his senior debut on both occasions.

Following on from this Lingard was then sent out on loan to Championship side Leicester City at the start of the 2012/13 season, although after struggling to make a real impact he returned to the Old Trafford club half way through the campaign. The next two seasons would see Lingard take part in further loan spells, with Championship sides Birmingham City, Brighton and Hove Albion and Derby County. Each proving more successful than his time on loan at Leicester City, with Lingard totalling 33 first team appearances and scoring 11 goals.

It was not until the 2015/16 season, however, under manager Louis van Gaal that Lingard began to make a real impact at Manchester United, forcing his way in to the Manchester United first team, making 40 appearances and netting six goals, as well as going on to hit the winning goal against Crystal Palace in the Emirates FA Cup final.

Since the arrival of Jose Mourinho in May 2016, Lingard has not looked back and has continued to be a mainstay in the United first team. Not only did the 25-year-old prove himself to be a great squad player for Mourinho last season but he also chipped in with important goals in the FA Community Shield against Leicester City and in the EFL Cup final against Southampton. However, despite his achievements, Lingard never seemed to get the plaudits he perhaps deserved. With his lack of consistency often leading to heavy critics from both fans and the media alike.

This season though Lingard has overcome his inconsistency and has come on leaps and bounds, with him arguably not only being Manchester United most improved players this season but one of the Premier Leagues most improved players.

For the majority of the season Lingard has been undroppable, taking part in all but four league games so far this campaign. With three games still to go Lingard has already achieved his highest goal tally in a single season scoring 13 goals, seven more than he did last season. Though it is not only Lingard’s finishing that has improved drastically this season but his work ethic and energy in particular seems to have brought much more balance to the team.

A view which is shared by former United captain, defender, and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, who was discussing the topic on Monday Night Football, saying:

“I think Jose Mourinho has needed him in that team as a balance to the players who don’t make the same frequency of runs in behind at the same speed. They don’t have the same work ethic. He has an incredible work ethic on and off the ball.” 

It’s clear that Lingard has really upped a gear this season and is starting to finally prove his doubters wrong and receive some recognition for his ability. Despite not having as much natural talent as some of his counterparts, Lingard has proved that determination and work ethic are just as imported in order to succeeded at the highest level of the game.

There is no doubt that if Lingard continues to play with such consistency that he will be a big player for both club and country for many years to come. Plus, with an FA Cup final just around the corner, I’m sure Lingard will be hoping to take his excellent form in to the final few games of the season and who knows, he’ll maybe even add some goals to his Wembley tally.

Written by Jamie Mackinlay

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