By 90Min
March 21, 2019

Jesse Lingard is entering his eighth year as a professional with Manchester United and arguably his presence at the club is now felt more than ever. However, the Warrington-born player is often overlooked when it comes to conversations about United's key difference-makers.

Dismissed by many as a squad player at best during his early twenties, Lingard has come on leaps and bounds in recent seasons. Owing partly to his small stature, the boyhood United fan was a late bloomer and this may explain why he often fails to get the recognition he deserves.

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After an unstoppable start to his reign as manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has recently seen his side lose away to Arsenal and Wolves in the Premier League and FA Cup respectively. It is no coincidence that this recent dip in form has coincided with the 26 year-old's spell on the sidelines through injury. 

Lingard made his return to the first-team in the FA Cup quarter-final against Wolves, though he was clearly not at full fitness, as his team fell to a 2-1 defeat. Perhaps a testament to the value placed on the attacking midfielder by Solskjaer, the United man has been sent to Dubai for some warm weather training over the international break in an attempt to fast-track his return to peak fitness.

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Despite emerging as a notable figure off the pitch with the launch of his clothing brand and engaging social media activity, Lingard continues to go somewhat under the radar on the field. 

That said, he has played a crucial role in Solskjaer's counter-attacking style of football since the Norwegian has taken over and will be key to his manager's ambition to secure the job on a permanent basis.

Proof of his influence is maybe best showcased by United's two visits to the Emirates Stadium since the arrival of Solskjaer - the first with Lingard, the second without. With just 37% of the possession in the first game, the United academy product played a key role in exposing Arsenal's defensive weaknesses, as they came away with an emphatic 3-1 victory, with Lingard grabbing one of the goals.

Fast forward six weeks, however, and a Lingard-less United fell to a 2-0 defeat at the same venue. Despite controlling large parts of the game, the Red Devils lacked the ruthless and clinical edge that Lingard appeared to give them first time round.

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As the the red side of Manchester prepares for a gruelling end to the season, the England international's return to fitness will be key to their success, as they face a Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona as well as a fight for a top-four finish with Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.

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