Michael Carrick feels Jesse Lingard has always possessed the qualities to succeed at the highest level for both Manchester United and England, and his approach to the game is unique.
The livewire forward starred in England’s first two World Cup matches, scoring a stunning strike in the record-breaking 6-1 win over Panama. He was then rested by boss Gareth Southgate for the 1-0 defeat by Belgium but is expected to return to the starting line-up for the Three Lions’ last-16 tie against Colombia tonight (Tuesday).
His exploits on the biggest of stages, in front of the watching world in Russia, have come on the back of arguably his best season in a United shirt so far. He netted 13 goals in 2017/18 – the most he’s scored in a single season in his career to date.
However, as former United captain Carrick explains, Lingard has long since realised his true potential.
“I remember watching Jesse over on the back pitches [at the Aon Training Complex] when he was a young lad,” recalled Carras, who hung up his boots at the end of last season and is now part of Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff.
“He must have been 15 and I was seeing this tiny little kid running around. You could see then the ability he had – his movement, awareness and all that sort of stuff.
“It was just about his physicality and giving him time to develop. You can’t give enough credit to the staff behind the scenes for letting him take his own time to develop and nurturing him in different ways. Now, obviously we’re getting the rewards from that. He had a great season [in 2017/18], scoring a lot of goals and he is now a big player for us.”
Lingard has occupied a variety of attacking roles for both United and England, notably excelling in the no.10 position for the Reds last term, and has illustrated his ability to score different types of goals.
Carrick was a team-mate of fellow countryman Lingard for four years, after Jesse made his first-team breakthrough in the 2014/15 season.
When asked what he feels Jesse’s best attributes and skills are, Michael said:
“I think his movement – he moves off the ball very well. It’s something that sounds quite simple, but it’s difficult to defend against.”
The former midfielder added:
“He senses where the space is and how to use it. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s a dribbler with skills and tricks but he’s dynamic. How he plays, he is unique in some ways. You don’t see so much of that in the game as everyone wants to get on the ball and do something on the ball. Off the ball, he’s very effective.”
Lingard – as well as United team-mates Marcus Rashford, Ashley Young and Phil Jones – will hope to be involved tonight as England take on Colombia, who are captained by former Reds striker Radamel Falcao, in Moscow at 19:00 BST, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.