England manager Gareth Southgate has defended his selection of Jesse Lingard, stressing the importance of supporting the out-of-form Manchester United attacking midfielder.
The Three Lions boss named four uncapped players in his 25-man squad for September’s Euro 2020 qualification double-header against Bulgaria and Kosovo.
Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker was an eye-catching omission from the group, while a number of onlookers questioned whether fellow World Cup semi-finalist Lingard should have made the cut.
After being rapped over the knuckles by United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the summer for a controversial social media post, the 26-year-old hit the ground running during an impressive pre-season – a level of performance that he has been unable to translate into Premier League action.
“I think you’d have to say I’ve seen him have better spells for United,” Southgate said.
“I think Ole has a young, energetic team, and I think Jesse’s pressing and the energy he brings to that has been an important part of what they’ve tried to do in the first few games.
“The inclusion of Jesse for us is partly because his form for us has always been good.
“I know there was stats on his goals. He was only involved in four games for us last season because of injury – two starts and two off the bench.
“He scored two and had a goal disallowed when he came on in the Nations League game. He had a very good World Cup.
“When you’re selecting a team, there’s half an eye on club form but also I don’t remember a game where he’s been really poor for us.
“He has different attributes. I think for him and for everybody else, there is serious competition and if they aren’t scoring for us or they aren’t scoring for their clubs, that can make things more difficult.
“But, equally, I think it’s good that we support him at this moment, in that you could argue club-wise, he’s on the fringes and whether he should be ahead of others.
“But I don’t think there are too many that we haven’t included that should be ahead of him, and his performance for us has been very, very good.”