Whilst many may look at an international fixture against Andorra as a waste of time, for Jesse Lingard, it provided an opportunity to remind Gareth Southgate and England fans all over the country exactly what he can bring to the Three Lions setup. Two goals from Lingard, and a sensational overall performance, lit up Wembley against the hapless Andorra — the kind of form he produced in his loan spell at West Ham United last season.
Unfortunately for the Manchester United man, a return to West Ham didn’t materialise during the summer transfer window. It’s clear that Lingard isn’t in Ole Gunnar Solskjær plans for this season, and will have to settle for a squad role, but the display for England against Andorra suggested that the Manchester United boss may need to rethink things — even if England were the overwhelming favourites in the sports betting at Betfair.
With so many players vying for starting roles in United’s midfield, it’s no surprise that Lingard is not getting much of a look-in. In many ways, it’s a shame that he didn’t get a permanent transfer this summer, be it to West Ham or another club. He played with freedom last season after getting away from Old Trafford, where his career had stagnated, and was perhaps unlucky not to wind up in Southgate’s final squad for the European Championships.
It was important that he took advantage of his opportunity against Andorra. From the very first whistle, he was the man making things happen for England — running with the ball, winning free-kicks, dictating play against a resolute Andorran defence. His opening goal set the tone and took the pressure off the Three Lions, a quick snapshot after the ball broke to him in the penalty area.
His second goal of the day was even more impressive. Having picked the ball up some 20 yards from goal, he unleashed a venomous drive which evaded the Andorran goalkeeper and nestled in the corner of the net. On another day it could have been a hat-trick, after his delightful dink in the first half was disallowed for offside.
Lingard led by example in an England team that was much changed, but still heavily fancied in the online betting tips. Of all the players who were eager to impress Southgate, it was the 28-year-old who stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries. The only problem now is that he’s unlikely to get much first-team club football to back up his impressive display.
It’s clear that Lingard is still a player who can play a valuable role for a Premier League club. There’s no doubt that West Ham will try again in January to acquire his signature, whether it’s a permanent move or another loan switch. Either way, you feel that Lingard has to move on to realise his potential. At 28, he should be approaching the peak years of his career, and he can’t afford to let his career stagnate at Manchester United, where first-team opportunities are limited.
Until such a move transpires, Lingard’s only option is to knuckle down and try his best to change Solskjær’s mind. Against Andorra, he gave a flavour of what Manchester United are missing by leaving him on the bench.