Jesse Lingard is an enigma. He is neither neatly pigeon-holed as a creative fulcrum, nor a traditional winger. The Warrington-born midfielder is neither quick nor slow, shows inconsistent flashes of technical brilliance, and his only truly reliable quality is to put in the proverbial shirt. Throughout his Manchester United career, whether in the academy or with the seniors, Lingard has never been the outstanding player on the pitch. He is one of many cogs in a whirring machine.
“It is as bad as a defeat,” admitted José Mourinho after Leicester City scored a last-minute equaliser at the King Power Stadium on Saturday night. Manchester United created the best chances and spent 20 minutes with a man advantage, yet left the East Midlands feeling despondent. Two disastrous results inside three days will do that. As for José: he threw his players under the bus. Twice.
Nothing in life is guaranteed. When Luke Shaw signed for Manchester United in summer 2014, by the newly appointed manager Louis Van Gaal, the club assumed it had purchased the best money could buy. The deal followed Shaw’s surprise inclusion in the England World Cup squad in preference to Ashley Cole, one of country’s finest left-back’s in the English game. Shaw’s 57 appearances for Southampton, some under Mauricio Pochettino, demonstrated enough potential to persuade United to spend £27 million on the left-back, making the 19-year-old the most expensive teenager in world football. It hasn’t worked out as hoped.
There have been three occasions on which Manchester City has visited Old Trafford with the clubs occupying the top two spots in the Premier League. Yet, the latest instalment has an entirely different narrative to it than those that proceeded.
Check out the Manchester United Foundation website and you’ll come across Maria. Maria is a talented striker who scored goals for United’s Regional Talent Club and by all rights her story is an uplifting one. Yet, if Maria is to pursue a playing career she is more likely to don the blue of Manchester City and not United’s red. United still does not have women’s team.
Michael Carrick did not feature in Manchester United’s handsome victories at Watford or Arsenal. The 35-year-old is still regaining fitness after a spell on the sidelines following detection of a worrying heart condition back in September. One suspects that the veteran midfielder will be enjoying the performances of fellow Englishmen Ashley Young and Jesse Lingard though; two revivalists enjoying life under José Mourinho. Not just because of Young’s successful reinvention as a decent left-back, or Lingard’s ascent to become United’s number 10, but the way each has transformed to get ahead. After all, Carrick is an avid student of the game.
The rivalry between José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola is one of modern day football’s great dramas. The duo have crossed swords numerous times, with Mourinho cast as the master of the dark arts, while Guardiola is portrayed as the idealistic purist. It is a story riddled with feuds, tetchy conflicts, and no shortage of bad blood dating back to the time when the pair were in charge of Spanish giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid.