The biggest positive to come from Manchester United’s recent pre-season tour has to be the performance of Jesse Lingard, who finished as top scorer over United’s friendly matches in Asia with four goals.
His performances may have convinced David Moyes that he deserves a chance to impress in the first team during the Premier League season, creating a nice contrast with Wilfried Zaha, expected to be one of United’s primary wingers.
Zaha is definitely under more pressure because he’s proven his quality over a longer period of time, working his way into the England Under-21 and senior setups in the process.
Considering the impending departure of Nani and the inconsistency of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia last season, Zaha is in a position where he could be thrust into the spotlight and expected to hold down a wide position next season.
He certainly has the skill and the ability to be a real pain in the side of several teams next season. He scored eight goals last season with Crystal Palace and his decision making inside the final third of the pitch just seems to be getting better and better.
Lingard by contrast could soon find himself with a chance or chances that he would not have been expecting.
His role as an attacking midfielder means it would be a huge gamble for Moyes to start him in that position for any league game but there is no reason he can’t have an impact from the bench or in lower profile tournaments for the club.
It’s also arguably a more difficult position for him to play because Zaha’s main role as a wide man is to attack the full back, get in crosses, cut inside and provide assists.
Lingard has the much more difficult job of having to control the tempo of United’s attacking play while maintaining his integrity to a point where he stays level headed and calm in terms of his decision making inside the final third.
Zaha will be subjected to the higher pressure and expectation but if Lingard can work his way into the first team, even if he’s just being named as a sub, that’s arguably a bigger achievement.
Everyone expects Zaha to fly down either wing, terrorising the opposition defence, but few would have expected Lingard to set himself up for the chance he should quite rightly get at some point over the next couple of months.
Expect Zaha to have the bigger impact out of the two but don’t be surprised if Lingard’s status at the club is seriously elevated over the next few months, forcing United to offer him a very big contract.
Who do you think will have the bigger impact and season?
image: © James Boyes