Jesse Lingard admitted to a sense of "relief" after Manchester United's late winner against CSKA Moskva – and the young winger did as much as anybody to make it happen.
Article top media content
Wayne Rooney stole the headlines with his winning goal – his 237th for Manchester United, taking him level with Denis Law – but against CSKA Moskva last night, it was a player at the other end of the career path who took the man of the match honours.
Jesse Lingard was making his first UEFA Champions League appearance at Old Trafford in the Group B fixture and he took his opportunity with a positive performance, always looking to go forward and trying to make things happen from his berth on the left side of United's attack.
At a club which has produced such prodigies as George Best, Norman Whiteside and Ryan Giggs, Lingard has had to wait for his chance. He is 22 now and suffered a setback in his development last year, sustaining a knee ligament injury 24 minutes into his debut in Louis van Gaal's first Premier League match.
Lingard only made his UEFA Champions League debut in Moscow a fortnight ago yet back at Old Trafford he played the full 90 minutes and ended up having a hand in United's late winner. "It is always an honour to play for Man Utd," said the homegrown youngster afterwards. "I've always wanted to play for Man Utd, especially on Champions League nights like this. You know it doesn't get better than that."
It was a night when United had to be patient as CSKA sat back and invited a team struggling to score after three goalless games to try to break them down. Lingard had his own first-half opportunity at the far post from Ashley Young's cross but shot over.
The post-match statistics underlined his efforts to engineer a breakthrough: of United's four attacking players, he completed 41 passes compared with 25 for Juan Mata, 23 for Rooney and eight for Anthony Martial. Not everything came off, but he was direct and full of running and energy.
And with 11 minutes remaining he chose just right as Michael Carrick's excellent ball reached him on the right side of the box and he volleyed across goal for Rooney to nod in. "We had to be patient and keep moving the ball around and we knew the time would come and obviously Wazza [Rooney] was there to put the ball in the back of the net," said Lingard. "It was a great ball from Michael Carrick and obviously seeing Wazza in the centre, I played it across and he scored.
"It was massive," he added of the sense of relief on a night when the Old Trafford crowd voiced their frustration more than once. "We thought we dominated the game throughout and created numerous chances in the first and second half, so to see the ball go in was a relief."
By the time the ball hit the back of the net, United had gone over six hours without a goal. Lingard almost added a second himself moments later when his shot drew a fingertip save from Igor Akinfeev and midfielder Carrick felt the outcome was just what United deserved.
"It was a long night in respect that we had a lot of the ball and we kept trying things and kept knocking on the door and kept believing that at some stage we would open them up and score a goal," he said. "We were prepared for it to be late on. We thought there was a chance it might have gone like that and it proved to be.
"We played some good football. It is tough when teams come and put so many players behind the ball and you just have to keep probing, keep passing, keep working chances and we got fully what we deserved."