There came a time where Jesse Lingard was tipped for greatness. Sir Alex Ferguson thought it, Louis van Gaal did too and Jose Mourinho played the England international so much he was in agreement as well. But Saturday night’s match between Manchester United and Watford suggests the England international is finished at Old Trafford – with the playmaker struggling to make his mark.
Ferguson thought Lingard would become a huge player for United during the playmaker’s time in the club’s academy, when he cutting his teeth alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison.
And there came a time where it appeared that would be the case.
Van Gaal thought Lingard was destined to become his midfield maestro, believing him to be capable of making things happen both on and off the ball.
When the England international struck the winner in the 2016 FA Cup final, against Crystal Palace at Wembley, it was meant to be the start of things to come.
Mourinho then thought Lingard would be a great player to inherit from Van Gaal, whose head rolled shortly after he guided the club to a first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Lingard, again, flourished under the current Tottenham boss.
He scored in Wembley matches against Leicester and Southampton, famously turned Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium into his own private dance floor and was a key figure as the Red Devils won both the EFL Cup and Europa League in 2017.
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Against Watford on Saturday, it was his big chance. Lingard was unleashed from the start for the first time since a 3-0 win over Brighton back in September.
But the 27-year-old was an anonymous figure throughout the contest, producing an insipid display as the Red Devils narrowly battled their way to victory.
United have grown accustomed to brilliance at No 10, with Bruno Fernandes providing it ever since his January move from Sporting Lisbon.
Yet Lingard pales in comparison to the Portugal international and created precious few chances during the showdown against the Hornets.
It was no surprise to see his number come up for Nemanja Matic late on after a dire 90 minutes of running around.
And Dimitar Berbatov was scathing in his assessment of Lingard after the game, saying: “Honestly, his time is up.
“He’s not playing. He had his chances to shine, to prove how good he is, how good he can be. It shows that, for the moment, Ole does not trust him enough to play him.
“And honestly he doesn’t have anywhere to play in the team right now.
“So when you’ve been so long in one team and, coming to 28 [years old], you have to look back and say, ‘did I achieve enough? Am I happy with what I’ve done here? Is my time up?’
“So I think he need to move, he needs to go somewhere else to play.”
United have Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek all capable of playing at No 10.
So Lingard is no longer needed and, with Inter Milan showing interest in the playmaker, a parting of the ways could be on the cards.