[dropcap]M[/dropcap]anchester United kept up their Premier League title hopes yesterday with a 2-0 win over West Brom, riding their luck to some extent but most importantly adding three more points to their tally.
Although the Red Devils find themselves right in the mix at the top of the table after 12 games, the manner of the side’s performances have not exactly had Old Trafford hearts racing this term.
A lack of attacking incisiveness has been apparent in Louis van Gaal’s side this season, with an over-reliance on new superstar Anthony Martial and a stern defensive approach the crux of the team’s success to date in 2015-16.
With the home faithful urging their side to attack yesterday, it is clear that the United supporters are not exactly enamoured with a team that has played such scintillating offensive football over the years.
With the game locked at 0-0, it was young home-grown starlet Jesse Lingard that eventually broke the deadlock, scoring on only his second start for his boyhood club.
The 22-year-old has had to bide his time in recent campaigns but now looks set to play an ever-increasing role in Van Gaal’s starting XI.
Lingard has been on the collective radar for some time, with his burgeoning reputation suggesting that it was a matter of if rather than when he would get a chance to feature for United.
Loan stints at Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and most recently Derby have given the skilful attacker a taste of first-team football and displayed all his qualities in abundance.
With a consistent berth in the England under-21 side over the last two years also, Lingard’s path to become United next homegrown sensation has been there for all to see.
There is no doubting that the 22-year-old is following in illustrious footsteps.
United have certainly produced some of the best talents in the British game over the last generation, with the fabled Class of 92 revolutionising the club’s fortunes.
However, it is under Van Gaal that Lingard will also follow in the path of some of the game’s most recent greats.
The opinionated Dutchman has a long track record of giving young players a chance to play at the clubs he has coached and can be accredited with giving World Cup and Champions League winners their first taste of senior football.
At Ajax, future Netherlands internationals Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf and Rafael van der Vaart were all given their first opportunity in the Amsterdam first team by their compatriot.
At Barcelona it was Van Gaal who promoted La Masia graduates Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Víctor Valdés and Carles Puyol to the Blaugrana big stage.
Bayern Munich’s respected youth academy has produced plenty of top-notch players in the last decade, with Van Gaal the man to bring David Alaba and Holger Badstuber into the Bavarian senior set-up.
As such, there is no doubting that despite United’s splurging in the transfer market, under the veteran Dutchman the stars from the youth academy will also be given a chance if they are good enough and ready.
It was Van Gaal who gave Lingard his first Premier League start on the opening day of last term, but an unfortunate injury against Swansea prevented him from staking a more regular claim.
Fast forward 12 months and competition for places in the starting XI is fierce but there are positive signs that the 22-year-old can get his fair share of football at United in 2015-16.
With Memphis Depay not living up to his superstar billing and Van Gaal showing that he cares not for players’ reputations, Lingard’s time at Old Trafford looks to have come.
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