Jesse Lingard has come of age in the 2017-2018 Premier League season. The Manchester United attacking midfielder has produced the goals when it mattered, adding end product to the quick-feet and flair he showcased as a youngster. But Lingard’s development as a footballer, like many of his teammates, came from important loan spells with other teams. None was more important than his time with Birmingham City.
The Warrington-born footballer played for the Blues in the 2013-2014 season, scoring six goals from 13 appearances. He notably announced himself to the St. Andrews faithful with a four-goal haul on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday in September 2013. That included scoring three goals in the space of 13 minutes.
Lingard’s first game for the Blues prompted assistant manager Terry McDermott to say it was the best debut he’d ever seen. He told reporters during the post-match conference in which Lingard had scored all the goals in a 4-1 win, that he admired the teenager’s laid back personality and the ability to turn that confidence into a performance that made a positive difference on the pitch.
It was an unprecedented goal return for a debuting player at Birmingham City and importantly handed the club its first league win of the season. Lingard has recently been reflecting on his loan spells, noting how his time at St. Andrews helped him mature as a footballer.
Had it not been for his early goals, Birmingham could have been looking at a season ending in relegation – something that they’re battling again, though they look to be almost safe, with odds of 13/8 to stay up with William Hill. To pitch in for a team in a difficult situation proved he was up for the fight.
Although it ended inauspiciously – he was sent off and never played again for the Blues – there’s no denying he’s one of the biggest successes to prosper from a loan spell at St. Andrews. It was widely acknowledged that then-manager Lee Clark would have extended his time with the club had Manchester United not recalled him.
While the Englishman might have taken longer than some expected to really blossom as a footballer, it’s clear the attacking midfielder enjoyed his time under manager Lee Clark. It was a learning curve that has propelled him into the first team at Old Trafford. And, given that he’s enjoying his best season in the Premier League, he could be in the starting 11 for this year’s World Cup.
Indeed, Lingard’s blistering form over the festive period really got people sitting up and taking note. His 90th minute equaliser against Burnley in December was huge, as it really showed that he was a big-game player.
Manchester United’s squad gives manager Mourinho many options up front. So it makes Lingard’s success in the 2017-2018 season even more impressive. He’s had to battle with fellow English international Marcus Rashford, the gifted Spaniard Juan Mata and French international Anthony Martial, as well as the introduction of Alexis Sanchez, in order to earn a place in United’s starting line-up.
But as his goals and assists have shown, including topping Sky Sports’ Power Rankings in January following a run of scintillating form over the festive period, Lingard has married end product with the tenacity and skill he has always possessed. Like the man himself says, his experiences with other clubs helped him develop into the international footballer he is today, but it’s Birmingham City that made the real difference. It was here where he began to put an abundance of talent and confidence together to deliver end product.