26 years of age. 26. Over two-and-a-half decades.
Many footballers tend to hit their peak at this age, having already recorded some respectable figures in the earlier years of their career – well, those at the top level have, and Manchester United should be considered in that bracket.
So, how come a player as ineffective as Jesse Lingard, a man who has somehow made 35 appearances this season, can get away with doing very little at one of the world’s elite clubs?
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You almost forget that he is 26. Graeme Souness even said that Lingard needs senior players to look up to in this United team, before Roy Keane and Gary Neville both criticised Pogba for not being that fatherly figure – the Frenchman is three months younger than Lingard.
Whilst he is hardly prolific, nor does he set up too many goals, one stat shows just far out of his depth Lingard is at this level, and how much he has stagnated. Raheem Sterling, a man two years younger than Lingard, has hit 23 goals this season, compared to the United man’s 5.
How have Manchester United, a side who have won the Premier League title a record 21 times, gone from having excellence such as Cristiano Ronaldo on the wings, to persisting with a player better known for his dance moves and amount of Instagram followers?
The fact that no-one really questions his involvement in the team or points the finger at him like they do with Pogba when things are going wrong suggests that the fans have settled for less. They are accepting mediocrity and are not questioning it – in stark contrast, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez are struggling for game time over in the blue half of Manchester.
If you delve a bit deeper into their career stats as a whole, it gets worse for Lingard and clearly shows the disparity between the level at which Manchester City and Manchester United are currently competing at.
As aforesaid, the former Liverpool forward is a whole two years younger than his fellow Englishman on the red half of Manchester; so what has Lingard been doing for those extra two years?
He either needs to cut out the dancing and the social media antics and knuckle down on his football, or United need to be ruthless and get rid of their academy graduate.
His continued presence in the team, compared to the ruthlessness shown over at the Etihad in recent years, is emblematic of the growing disparity between the two sides.