Southgate backs Lingard to rise to Ronaldo challenge, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Southgate backs Lingard to rise to Ronaldo challenge

England manager Gareth Southgate has backed Jesse Lingard to deal with the stiff competition for places at Manchester United, which has only increased with the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lingard had played only four minutes this season before Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, with the 28-year-old competing with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood for minutes.

Lingard, however, shone for England in their 4-0 win over Andorra in a World Cup qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time), bagging two goals and an assist.

Said Southgate: "We know Jesse has a challenge and he knows he has a big challenge with the quality of attacking players at United.

"But they've also got a lot of matches in different competitions, so hopefully he can take that challenge on and he will take that challenge on.

"He has rebounded brilliantly in the last 12 months from a difficult period and he has shown that he has got quality. It is not necessarily the quality of the opponent but it is performing with the quality of players that we have and stand out. That shows his level of quality.

"I know that I have had criticism for including him in squads but he is just a player that always plays well for us."

However, former England striker Darren Bent was not as optimistic.

He told talkSPORT: "If other players are playing week in, week out, can Gareth still pick Lingard solely off international form?

"For me, it's a little bit disappointing for Jesse because, his first half of last season was difficult, couldn't get much game time. He goes to West Ham and he's a revelation...

"But the fact he's gone back to United and they've bought players in, they've bought Jadon Sancho in, they've bought Cristiano Ronaldo in, his minutes are going to diminish even more. I still think it's important he plays week in, week out, because he is that good of a player."

Another player struggling for minutes at United is Donny van de Beek, who has yet to feature this season.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blocked a loan move to Everton on transfer-deadline day, with the Dutchman's agent Guido Albers telling Ziggo Sport that Ronaldo's arrival was "bad news for us".

Ex-Netherlands coach Marco van Basten was more blunt, saying the 24-year-old's 2020 move to United was not a "smart choice". He told Voetbal Zone: "Van de Beek is not that good. As No. 10 at Ajax (Amsterdam), it is much easier than as No. 10 in Spain or England."