ECONOMY

Southgate backs Lingard to rise to Ronaldo challenge at Man United


Southgate described Lingard as his side’s “brightest spark” as England maintained their 100 per cent start to World Cup qualifying with a stroll at Wembley.

Lingard, who opted to stay at Old Trafford this summer despite a hugely successful loan spell at West Ham from January, scored either side of Harry Kane’s penalty and set-up Bukayo Saka’s late header in England’s first game at Wembley since the European Championship final defeat.

Lingard barely played at United in the first half of last season and Ronaldo’s return to Manchester has only increased competition for places in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s star-studded squad.

Asked about Lingard’s competition at club level, Southgate said: “That’s a situation that we have had with different players over a long period with England.

“It wasn’t long ago that the numbers of English players in the league was low and we would have to pick players that weren’t regulars in their team or on loan. We picked Mason [Mount] from the Championship so we have had to be creative.

“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 today 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. He is always a threat on goal with bright link play. When we ask him to start wide, we know he will come in and do the give-and-gos.

“He has really good intelligence and works hard without the ball and presses well. Today, I thought he was the brightest spark, particularly in the first half as it was the type of game where those players who can manipulate the ball between the lines would shine more than others.”

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