Chance for Lingard to show he can be the next Iniesta
Meulensteen's comparison of Lingard to Spaniard may be premature, but youngster possesses similar traits
MAN UNITED v PSV EINDHOVEN
(Tomorrow, 3.40am, Singtel TV Ch 111 & StarHub TV Ch 202)
Comparison continues to dictate virtually every facet of life at Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal's accomplishments, and those of the men who will succeed him in the long term, will invariably be held up against the marker set by Sir Alex Ferguson, much in the same way that his unparalleled 26 years at the helm were measured against those of the legendary Matt Busby.
The past, it seems, is an inescapable trait at Old Trafford, where forward thinking has become the foundation of its modern empire.
It is no different on the playing side, with every emerging talent hailed as the heirs to the thrones of George Best, Bryan Robson and Peter Schmeichel.
Ferguson's former ally Rene Meulensteen has now added a new name into that already heady mix.
Should Jesse Lingard feature against PSV Eindhoven tomorrow morning (Singapore time), the pressure of living up to Meulensteen billing him as England's answer to Andres Iniesta will weigh heavier on him than the No. 7 shirt has on each incumbent since Cristiano Ronaldo's departure.
The 22-year-old Lingard is now the standard bearer for the club's once burgeoning homegrown crop.
With Adnan Januzaj farmed out on loan to Borussia Dortmund, he stands alone as the only other academy graduate to start an English Premier League game.
Yet van Gaal's continued selection of him is not merely lip service to the long coveted record of United including a youth team player in every matchday squad since 1937, as it appeared to be when Paddy McNair and Sam Johnston were deployed as perennially unused substitutes.
Lingard has shown in the Champions League that Meulensteen's comparison with Iniesta, though somewhat premature, carries a certain degree of foundation.
Not only did both graduate through the ranks of their respective boyhood clubs but, like the Barcelona playmaker, the Red Devils' prodigy has also bought into his manager's philosophy.
However, Lingard's promising career could have been over as quickly as it had begun.
Midway through the first half in the 2-1 defeat by Swansea some 15 months ago, he was withdrawn on his debut by van Gaal due to injury; a cruel setback for a player who prides himself on being United through and through.
With five starts and a goal for United in addition to a senior England call-up, he has been a revelation in the 37 days since he replaced Juan Mata against Everton.
It is a far cry from his languishing in the English Championship, seven months on from that bittersweet Old Trafford bow, on loan at Derby County.
Much like Iniesta for Barcelona, Lingard's industry often tends to go unnoticed amid the goals and glory that have greeted United's resurgence.
Such are his statistics for passing accuracy in the final third that they would be considered a source of pride by his Nou Camp counterpart.
That growing list of personal accomplishments has been supplemented by two impressive performances against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, which have set a crucial marker.
As van Gaal looks to consolidate his side's status as Group B's supreme leaders, another relentless showing from Lingard tomorrow morning could produce a repeat of the enterprising moment that led to his assist for Wayne Rooney's winning goal against the Russian side earlier this month.
The United captain knows a thing or two about leaving a lasting impression beneath the Old Trafford floodlights.
That stage is perfectly set for Lingard to make his own opportunity count.