Manchester United are set to play an almost meaningless match tonight against Austrian side Lask in the Europa League but for one player it might hold the greatest meaning of his long Manchester United career.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given Jesse Lingard countless opportunities to recreate the kind of form that projected him to the England team in 2016 at the age of 23, but which he has rarely been able to produce in the last two seasons.
The now 27-year-old’s performance against Norwich in the FA Cup quarter final in June was so poor that he was hauled off after 63 minutes and many pundits and journalists suggested that he had surely now squandered his last chance at Old Trafford and that he would be moved on at the end of the season.
But then, a strange thing happened. The Warrington-born man was brought on for the last few minutes of United’s Premier League finale against Leicester and a mistake by the Foxes’ keeper Kasper Schmeichel gifted him a goal in injury time – his first in the Premier League since 2018.
And such is Solskjaer’s fatherly devotion to the former academy star that he is prepared to clutch at straws. Could this be the turn of good fortune that brings back the old Jesse?
It is no coincidence that it was Lingard that Solskjaer took along to the pre-match press conference for tonight’s game.
‘Jesse is such an infectious lad in and about the group,’ the boss beamed.
‘He’s always in a good mood and is even hiding his own troubles.
‘He’s been here for his whole life. It was a great finish to the Premier League, but now it’s about kicking on and I’m sure we’re going to see a better side of Jesse and the best side of Jesse because we’ve seen that in training all the time.
‘Jesse will be starting tomorrow.’
A home game, 5-0 up against minnows. Solskjaer has given the star a golden opportunity to show what he can do. He is almost begging Lingard to just give him a reason, just one good performance, to justify keeping him at the club. That’s all it will take, it seems, but it surely is last orders at the last table of last chance saloon now and a poor performance will surely seal his fate.
Good luck, and don’t f— it up, Jesse.
Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have scored over 60 goals between them so far this season. But how much do you know about other strikers who played for the Red Devils over the years? Take our quiz below to find out.