Following England’s 2-0 win over Poland, the speculation surrounding Adnan Januzaj’s international future has lessened significantly. The possibility of the young Manchester United winger turning out for the Three Lions, despite his insistence on playing for Albania, was talked about at great length as supporters spoke of their desperation to see the then-man-of-the-hour called up to the national squad.
However, 2 impressive Andros Townsend displays quelled talk of the 18-year-old receiving a senior cap as England secured their place at Brazil 2014 with a comprehensive victory at Wembley. Attention now switches back to domestic action, with many pondering whether Januzaj can follow up his match-winning performance in the 2-1 win over Sunderland when United host Southampton at the weekend.
While the teenager is deserving of his average WhoScored.com rating of 7.47, another United trainee has seen his goalscoring exploits somewhat overlooked as a result. Jesse Lingard, currently on loan at underperforming Birmingham City, has ensured the Blues aren’t in as perilous a position as they might well have been otherwise.
With 5 goals in just 4 appearances, Birmingham manager Lee Clark is understandably keen to extend Lingard's loan deal beyond the current expiry of October 20th. Lingard is currently the club’s highest rated player, with the 20-year-old attaining an average of 7.79 following his blistering start to life at St. Andrew’s. As things currently stand, the young Englishman is netting a goal every 68 minutes; the best return of every player in the Championship with at least 2 appearances this term.
Evidently, the young attacker boasts the necessary attacking quality to succeed in England’s second tier. The question, however, is whether he’s ready to transfer this quality to the top flight. The gulf in class between the Championship and Premier League is massive, of that there is no doubt.
Lingard insisted that, prior to his short-term move to Birmingham, he was ready to play for United's first-team, so it’s obvious that the player is confident in his own ability. Unfortunately for the attacker, the competition for places is tough. Januzaj, for one, could be considered an automatic starter under manager David Moyes, while the likes of Wayne Rooney, Shinja Kagawa, Nani and Antonio Valencia are certainly ahead of the England U-21 international in the pecking order.
Yet, when comparing the stats of the on-loan star to the current United squad, Lingard has exhibited his quality for Birmingham and, it can be argued, is deserving of his place amongst the senior players at the Manchester side. Currently averaging 1.5 key passes per game, that figure is below only Patrice Evra (1.8) and Nani (1.7) of every United player to have made at least 3 appearances this season.
Supporting the striker, his creative capabilities with United would understandably be tested, but he is visibly providing such an innovative threat for his Birmingham teammates. Granted, Lingard is yet to register an assist for Birmingham, but that says more about his striking colleague’s goalgetting deficiencies rather than the player’s capacity to instigate offensive moves.
Without their ability to consistently find the back of the net, Lingard has undertaken the role of goalscorer, as evidenced in his 5 league goals for the club. This figure has come as a result of the attacker averaging the most shots per game (3) for Birmingham, while only United striker Robin van Persie (3.7) is having more per league encounter when compared to every man at his parent club.
With a conversion rate of 41.7%, this figure is substantially better than all 4 of United’s Premier League goalscorers this term, Januzaj and Danny Welbeck (22.2%) the closest to matching his return. Boasting a shot accuracy of 58.3%, he’s also more accurate with his efforts on goal than the champions’ current goalscoring quartet, with Wayne Rooney (50%) his closest challenger. What is more, his pass success (82.5%) wouldn’t put him out of place when up against the current crop of United attackers, with Lingard undoubtedly capable of retaining possession in an advanced role.
As United struggle under the stewardship of the former Everton boss, the injection of youth Lingard can provide would offer a further attacking threat to the club, similar to that of Januzaj when he first broke onto the scene. Lingard's ability in front of goal stands him in exceptional stead and if United opt against allowing him to remain with Birmingham beyond the culmination of his loan spell, his performances for the Midlands side suggest he's ready to take any chance he is given in the first team at Old Trafford.
Do you think Jesse Lingard's form warrants a place in the Manchester United squad? Let us know in the comments below