Few things can bind United and England fans like an underrated youngster who can be used as a punching bag for the small section of spoiled brats who believe anything less than a Ballon D’or winning performance is nothing short of disgraceful.
If it’s not Danny Welbeck failing to put past Manuel Neuer, or Tom Cleverley being ridiculed for spending his spare time promoting his online brand rather than sleeping with prostitutes then it will be Jesse Lingard, who the collective angry mob of England and United fans turn their unwanted attention to.
Lingard is likely to feature for England tonight and when he does you can guarantee each misplaced pass or tame shot will be met with the kind of unbridled rage you’d normally find at a UKIP meeting.
England fans will always love to hate United players, whether it’s burning effigies of David Beckham or threatening to kill Phil Neville for giving away a penalty in a tournament you had zero chance of winning anyway, loathing United is as much as a pastime for England fans as being disappointed and thinking Jim Davidson is funny.
What’s saddening from a United point of view is how so many Reds are willing to castigate one of our own rather than defend them and point out their value to both club and country.
Jesse Lingard has scored a winning FA Cup final goal, has worked his way up through the ranks, having more spells on loan by the time he was 22 than most players manage in an entire career, yet refused to give up and played his part in the semi rejuvenation of United in the latter stages of the Louis van Gaal era and the dawn of the Jose Mourinho one.
Despite all this Lingard is treated like a pariah by many Reds, as though the zero pounds spent on the academy graduate was too much, the way he worked his way up to the United first team too long-winded and his ability to contribute important goals to the side too inconvenient for his detractors.
It’s almost a certainty that England fans are already lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks in anticipation of Lingard’s appearance tonight, yet if like some United fans who actually appreciate what the youngster does for their club, they pause and give the winger a chance they will see that despite his obvious failings, he is an asset to the side and has earned both his appearances at Old Trafford and his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad.
Lingard may not have the pace of an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or the skill of a Daniel Sturridge but he has a work rate that surpasses both of them, a willingness to track back and do his defensive duties that is alien to both the aforementioned superstars who are often more concerned with how they can advance themselves rather than the teams.
Lingard may be in the shade of some his team mates when it comes to ability but he’s also in the shade when it comes to ego as he’s willing to do the role he’s asked rather than the one he feels like, the one which will get him the most headlines or the one which will look the most impressive on a vine.
While England have struggled under a sea of arrogance for far too many tournaments, players like Lingard are often ignored in favour of their higher paid, more expensive counterparts, yet where has that got the national side for the past 50 years other than an overplayed Skinner and Baddiel song that ceased being funny, entertaining and relevant even before the X Factor?
If everyone’s fit for both United and England then the chances are Lingard’s chances would be limited, but more often than not squad players can step up and become vital for club and country, just ask any Reds who remember the 99 season where Jesper Blomqvist managed over 40 appearances or Italia 90 where late addition to the squad David Platt ended up firing the national side into the last eight of the World Cup.
Far too many football fans are too thick to see past their own club’s stars or the current flavour of the month when it comes to who should be lining up for the national side, it’s the same stupidity which had fans screaming out for Paul Scholes to make way for Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, only to spend the best part of a decade wondering what might have been had the Ginger Prince not been banished to the left wing before getting fed up with the ridiculousness of it all and abandoning the England circus in favour of a prolonged trophy laden career at Old Trafford.
I can forgive England fans for their inevitable hating of Lingard as many of them only bother with the Three Lions to shout abuse at its United members, but the real shame lies in how many Reds simply don’t share the pride some of us do at seeing a home grown talent reaching the heights of not just United’s first team but the national one.