How Does Manchester United Solve the Jesse Lingard Problem?

Posted By Uttiyo Sarkar on August 27, 2019

The smiles have quickly turned upside down at Manchester United as the squad suffered their first Premier League loss of the season –against Crystal Palace of all teams! In what should’ve been a routine win at Old Trafford against a side who hadn’t defeated them at the venue in three decades, the Red Devils fell to a disappointing 2-1 loss.

It seems the end-of-last-season nightmares are still plaguing the side from making considerable leaps under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.  What was the most concerning, for me, is how United were completely dominating possession, but failed to create chances to back up the 71% possession numbers. They only had three shots on target from over 20 shot attempts, further pinpointing their woes.

While their attackers have experienced topsy-turvy form so far, Jesse Lingard’s remained a constant failure.  The most experienced man in the attacking front-line (he might act childish, but definitely isn’t one), he’s failed to bring any kind of inspiration. Lingard’s been a complete bystander this season, failing to create chances for Anthony Martial/Marcus Rashford and neither being able to get on the score sheet himself.

For consecutive games, he’s been disappointing with a complete lack of spark up front, frustrating fans with his irrelevant contribution.

The Problem

Of course, Manchester United’s attack is neither menacing nor clinical enough as Liverpool or Manchester City’s. However, there’s definitely potential to do better. Lingard, for me, is curbing their ultimate potential going forwards. He’s lacking that special element to either free up chances for his front-three or dribble past bodies to score goals himself.

When you look at how the 26-year-old has no goals or assists in 2019, Lingard’s obviously a burden holding back his side. Daniel James’ only played three games but has more goals than Lingard at United this year. Then, there’s this:

The England international is just a sitting duck in the attack. He lacks that creative vision which is quintessential to thrive in a playmaker role. He isn’t able to wiggle into promising positions to score screamers anymore either. Considering that he has a woeful 6.51 WhoScored rating (the worst among any regular starter at United this season), I think it goes without a doubt that he’s their malfunction in the junction right now.

The Solution

The England international’s continued disappointments cannot be encouraged. He must be benched for the foreseeable future, with the versatile Mason Greenwood more deserving of showcasing his ruthless goal-scoring skills instead. With him on the right, Daniel James can move into a more accustomed left-wing position. Considering his impact after changing wings against Palace, whom he also scored against, the Welsh winger looks more menacing with his electric pace as well as cutting-in ability from the left.

Even Juan Mata, with his deft touch and stunning creativity down the middle, can make a bigger impact than a static Lingard. Paul Pogba could also be pushed forward to play in a more creative role with the freedom to express himself. He would, for me, amplify his creation numbers in a more advanced role, while also start scoring again.

Fred (where’s he at?!) can perhaps fill in for Pogba in midfield to help move the ball much quicker. Even Nemanja Matic, who I think still has something left in him to thrive against weaker opposition, can help protect United’s defence better to avoid another Palace-like hiccup. For Lingard, well he’s now on the high road to prove himself worthy of starting games for United.

One can’t really question the effort he gives, as even I’ll admit he has a terrific work-rate in him. Perhaps that can work wonders coming off the bench when opposition defenders are tired, allowing him to sneak into the box to score impactful goals late into games. Also, he’s also very good in cup competitions(remember his winner against Palace in 2016?) and can reform his reputation by performing in the FA Cup, Europa League etc.

Will it work?

Well, one can sure hope it does so. Lingard’s confidence looks completely shot after a string of bad performances and, for me, OGS cannot give him any more special treatment. Perhaps being benched will give the England international the reality check he needs to get back in shape. But unless he gives multiple super-sub performances going forward, Lingard needs to be kept out until his problem is fixed.

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Uttiyo Sarkar

An unbiased Manchester United die-hard. Lover of the beautiful game. Addicted to the Premier League and beyond. Hopeful writer in the search for the greater good.

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