Man United look to Lingard to do his talking on the pitch
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side started the season in style, sweeping Chelsea aside 4-0 at Old Trafford but have failed to score more than a single goal in each of their subsequent five matches.
They face a tricky-looking trip to West Ham on Sunday ahead of Premier League games against Arsenal and Liverpool over the coming month.
The departure of Romelu Lukaku to Italy has left Solskjaer light in forward areas, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial expected to fill the void.
New winger Daniel James has impressed, scoring three times, but until Mason Greenwood’s winner against Astana in the Europa League on Thursday, those three players had scored all United’s goals so far.
That lends weight to fears that United do not have sufficient creativity and goal threat from midfield.
England midfielder Lingard, who came through the youth ranks at Old Trafford, divides opinion among fans and has come in for stinging criticism on social media for his poor form.
He was accused of embarrassing the club even before the season started after posting a video that showed him shouting and swearing while on holiday with Rashford in Miami.
– Social media star –
Lingard, who has 6.6 million Instagram followers and his own fashion label, JLingz, has reportedly been told to focus on his football by Solskjaer, with Rashford given the same advice.
Whether or not he has lost his focus, the 26-year-old, who has started three of United’s five Premier League matches so far, is struggling to make an impact on the pitch this season.
He has not scored or produced an assist for the club since January and impatient fans are questioning the wisdom of offering him a new deal.
Solskjaer spoke up for Lingard after he was substituted during last month’s defeat against Crystal Palace, saying he would “continue to be an important part (of our team)”.
And England boss Gareth Southgate defended his decision to name Lingard in his squad for the recent Euro 2020 qualifiers.
“I think you’d have to say I’ve seen him have better spells for United,” Southgate said.
“I think Ole has a young, energetic team, and I think Jesse’s pressing and the energy he brings to that has been an important part of what they’ve tried to do in the first few games.”
Lingard has in the past had a knack of coming up with something special when it really counts.
He volleyed an extra-time winner against Crystal Palace to clinch the FA Cup in 2016 during Louis van Gaal’s final game in charge and the following season he scored in the League Cup final win.
The 2017/18 season, under Jose Mourinho, was a breakthrough campaign for Lingard, who scored 13 goals for United, including some spectacular solo efforts, but last season’s return was a modest five goals as the club struggled.
Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham are unbeaten since an opening-day drubbing by champions Manchester City and will be looking to repeat last year’s result at the London Stadium, when they beat United 3-1.
Paul Pogba and Martial are expected to miss the trip as United look to win away for the first time since March.
In their absence, Lingard could be handed another opportunity to force the attention back onto his football and help provide the creative link between midfield and attack that United crave.
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