England's Lingard issues reminder of potential

If Jesse Lingard began the season with a serious setback, the Manchester United youngster underlined his rich potential with his England winner against Sweden.

In the words of one respected English football writer here in Olomouc, Jesse Lingard "must be the most unknown 22-year-old Manchester United player in history". That may well be so, yet Lingard did his profile no harm at all in the Ander Stadium on Sunday.

With his superbly struck winning goal against Sweden, Lingard did not just resurrect English ambitions at this U21 EURO, he also offered a glimpse of the ability that persuaded Louis van Gaal to select him in his first-ever United lineup on the opening day of last season.

For Lingard, then 21, that United debut in a right wing-back role against Swansea City ended in pain and disappointment – he left the field after 24 minutes with a knee ligament injury – but it was evidence that Van Gaal sees something in a wide forward who has done much of his developing on loan at clubs in the English second tier.

An FA Youth Cup winner at United in 2011, like a growing number of young English footballers, he did much of his growing up at clubs elsewhere. There were loan spells in the second tier at Leicester City, Birmingham City and Brighton and Hove Albion, before he began last season with a goal against Liverpool in a pre-season tournament in Miami.

Watch Jesse Lingard's winner
Watch Jesse Lingard's winner

After recovering from his knee injury, he went back out on loan to Derby County in February but not before Van Gaal had given him a new two-and-a-half year contract and his potential has been there to see at this tournament.

Against Portugal in England's first match, he showed an obvious confidence in his shooting ability – curling a shot narrowly wide at 0-0 – and though he started on the bench against Sweden, that eye for goal came to England's rescue after he replaced the injured Alex Pritchard.

It was a goal that had the hallmark of a Manchester United player – a product perhaps of the skills work carried out by his generation of Old Trafford youngsters under the Dutch coach René Meulensteen. Reliving the moment, he said: "I was free on the edge of the box, the ball has come to me and as soon as it came to me I knew to hit it. It is just a weight off our shoulders."

It was his second U21 goal, following his strike in the 3-2 win against Germany in March, and his efforts have certainly been appreciated by his team-mates. "He has been fantastic," said right-back Carl Jenkinson. "I thought he played really well in the first game as well. Obviously he came off the bench and he has won the game for us. I am really pleased for him, he has got a lot of ability and he has done it on the big stage tonight."

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