Football News

Man Utd must unlock Jesse Lingard’s inner Iniesta, says Rene Meulensteen

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 17:11, 7 February 2020

Former Man Utd coach Rene Meulensteen insists that Jesse Lingard’s dip in form is only due to confidence and that the midfielder shares attributes with Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta.

Lingard has fallen out of favour with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, but Meulensteen believes they must keep the faith in him.

Lingard’s torrid time: Five things to know…

  • Jesse Lingard was a key part of Solskjaer’s initial success as United manager.
  • However, since then he has struggled.
  • He has failed to register a Premier League goal since December 2018 or an assist in over a year.
  • He has still played in all bar one of the games where he has been in the matchday squad this season.
  • Rene Meulensteen believes giving Lingard confidence will help unlock his ‘Iniesta’ attributes.

Lingard excelled for England during the 2018 World Cup, but it appears that tournament was something of a one-off.

In nearly 200 appearances for the Red Devils, he has registered 31 goals and 19 assists – for context, Kevin de Bruyne has managed 65 more assists in just six more appearances.

Whilst the English midfielder is clearly not on the same level as the Belgian, his output still falls well below what many would expect from a creative player in United’s squad.

However, Rene Meulensteen believes that United need to keep faith in the 27-year-old. Speaking on the Michael Anthony Show, he said: “Jesse had various loan clubs and then he came back.

“And I think Louis van Gaal was the manager at the time and Louis was very big on bringing young players through and Jesse got the chance to suddenly play in the first team and so did [Marcus] Rashford.

“That’s the luck that you need and certain managers can see it.

“Jesse always had attributes in his game as Iniesta had for Barcelona.”

It is not the first time the Dutch coach has compared Lingard to the former Barcelona great. In fact, Meulensteen has likened the Manchester United midfielder to the Spanish World Cup winner on several occasions previously.

The England international has made 32 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United this season scoring twice, with his last goal coming in the FA Cup win at Tranmere at the end of January.

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“It’s a confidence thing”

There is certainly a player somewhere in Jesse Lingard, but teasing him out has proved to be difficult in recent times. He is perhaps a perfect example of how mentality and belief can change a player. Christian Benteke and Fernando Torres can back that up.

The arrival of Bruno Fernandes may induce a fight or flight reaction in Lingard, who is simply struggling for confidence, according to Meulensteen.

He added: “Jesse, in my opinion – and I think he knows it himself, he’s a great kid – he’s the sort of player that’s so difficult for opposition teams to mark.

“I think it’s more a confidence thing, you need to recognise as staff and coaches and say ‘okay, when did you have the best games? When did you score the most goals? And why isn’t it happening now?’

“Somewhere down that line there’s a dent and you need to find that and what you can do to make sure the focus goes back.”