England manager Gareth Southgate has defended the inclusion of Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard in the latest Three Lions squad, insisting that the player has performed well at international level.
Lingard has been an important part of United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans at club level, favoured for his energy and pressing ability.
But the 26-year-old has been under major scrutiny in recent weeks after failing to score or assist a single Premier League goal in 2019. A more damning stat revealed that December 2018 is the sole month in which Lingard has managed Premier League goals and assists since April 2018.
Yet Southgate, who has acknowledged that Lingard has had ‘better spells’ for United in the past, is determined to stick by his man after judging him based on international performances stretching back to an impressive 2018 World Cup.
“I think Ole has a young, energetic team, and I think Jesse’s pressing and the energy he brings to that has been an important part of what they’ve tried to do in the first few games,” the England boss is quoted as saying by The Independent.
“The inclusion of Jesse for us is partly because his form for us has always been good. I know there was stats on his goals,”Southgate added.
“[But] he was only involved in four games for us last season because of injury – two starts and two off the bench. He scored two and had a goal disallowed when he came on in the Nations League game. He had a very good World Cup.
“When you’re selecting a team, there’s half an eye on club form but also I don’t remember a game where he’s been really poor for us.”
Lingard was only a substitute for United during the club’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday. He was brought on shortly before Kevin Danso was sent off for the home side, but couldn’t help his team find an elusive late winner.