Jesse Lingard received an England call-up on Sunday and both he, and Manchester United, should be delighted. United have had many, many international players and many England players, but there are very few that have really come through the ranks. Tom Cleverley and Wes Brown are other recent youth players to represent England, and we cannot forget that the likes of Duncan Edwards and Sir Bobby Charlton, who have trodden the same path. So it means he has joined an ever dwindling, yet star-studded group that have graduated from United youth to England.
Lingard hasn't made it yet
Lingard should be a very proud young man, but he should also keep his feet firmly on the ground. He was called to the squad as a result of injuries, and it is questionable that after only a handful of appearances for United he is ready for that step up. In all honesty, it will be a surprise if he features against France, and his call-up was probably only to have a closer look at his talents. Whether he does play any part or not, it shows a real lack of quality in depth in England right now. His call up is premature, but in all honesty, who else could Roy Hodgson have turned to? Andros Townsend has done well in an England shirt, but his recent misdemeanors for his club side have seen him banished from the first team. Other than him, there is not a great deal else out there.
Townsend is probably a good example to Lingard how not to take things for granted. The Spurs man is a talented player, but he has hardly played a full season at club level, was catapulted into the England side after some eye-catching performances and yet now he is training with the youth team at White Hart Lane. If he keeps his head down he has ability and time on his side to get back in the England set up, but it shows how quickly things can turn. There is nothing to suggest that Lingard, or Townsend for that matter, has an attitude problem, but one mistake can turn your fortunes in an instant.
It was interesting, prior to the initial squad being named, that when Lingard's name was mentioned as a possible call up Louis van Gaal was quick to dismiss the suggestion as too soon for the player. Van Gaal is probably right. He is protecting him of course, but not only that he knows the standard required to be an international player and his assessment that Lingard falls short is probably fair. There is possibly even more to it. With England decimated by injuries, then he is not going to train with the cream of English football. He will be training with good players, of course, but even if England have a full squad it is debatable whether they are a better group than the collective that Lingard trains with daily at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal a Lingard fan
Still, the experience will be good for Lingard and too soon or not, it is hard to disagree that his recent performances for United have been of a very good standard. It was perhaps a surprise when he got his opportunity ahead of Memphis Depay, but van Gaal is obviously a fan. Let's not forget van Gaal's first game in charge for United against Swansea included Lingard in the starting line-up, so but for misfortune in the form of an early injury in that match, he may well have kept his place way back in August of last year. As it was he did get injured, and it meant loan spells at Brighton and Hove Albion and then Derby County in the Championship.
With the arrival of Memphis Depay, it seemed like Lingard may be surplus to requirements but van Gaal must be praised for keeping him and giving him his opportunity. Most United fans will probably welcome that decision, and Lingard has taken his chance well. His performances have been excellent and he has looked a confident boy. He is positive, always driving at defences and before his marvellous recent goal against West Bromwich Albion, he had come closest to a goal in both the derby and the League Cup game against Middlesborough, where the woodwork denied him in both games. He is not going to be another Ryan Giggs, and he may not reach 'world class' level, but so long as he continues to progress there is no reason to suggest he will not be able to enjoy a good career at one of the biggest clubs in the world. For now, England can wait.