Lingard proves Man United worth again, so where's the supporters' love?
Jesse Lingard scored two goals against Swansea on Tuesday night to ensure Manchester United are still in contention of retaining the Carabao Cup.
But given how impressive United's record is with promoting youth players -- currently boasting a 79-year-old record of including an academy graduate in every single match day squad (3,882 consecutive games) -- the relationship Lingard has with some sections of the fan base is strange.
He isn't and won't ever be a world class member of the team, but he's a useful player to have. United have never built their success on having 25 players who could walk into any side. They've always had a decent number who are good enough players but also have something extra to give because they've made their way up through the ranks and love the club.
Lingard has shared pictures of himself on social media wearing a United shirt when he was barely old enough to walk. He's also posted videos of him attending the 1999 FA Cup final with his family. This lad is a dyed-in-the-wool Red who surely deserves better than what he receives from supporters.
Let's not forget that over the past two seasons he has scored two goals in Wembley finals that allowed United to win trophies. The first came in the 2016 FA Cup final, when his rocketed shot saw United's 10 men claim victory against Crystal Palace in extra time. The second was in the 2017 League Cup, when United beat Southampton 3-2 to secure Jose Mourinho's first piece of silverware with the club.
Lingard doesn't get to live off those goals forever, but to suggest he doesn't add anything to the team is unfair and untrue.
Nine of his last 10 goals have come in cup competitions, which is what you can expect from someone who rarely starts in the Premier League. He has his role to play in the team, and Tuesday night's performance showed this perfectly.
On the back of a disappointing defeat against Huddersfield at the weekend, United were faced with Premier League opposition away from home in this fourth-round cup tie. The pressure was on. Mourinho had taken a swipe at the team's attitude on Saturday, so they had to come up with a performance against Swansea.
Lingard put United ahead with a lovely finish after just 20 minutes, following a delightful flick through from fellow academy graduate Marcus Rashford. With an hour played, Lingard then doubled United's lead with a rare header, thanks to a brilliant run forward from Axel Tuanzebe and an inch-perfect cross from Matteo Darmian.
Lingard ran in front of the travelling United supporters, grabbing the badge on his shirt and celebrating putting his club through to the quarterfinals.
John O'Shea, Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans, Phil Neville -- all are the sort of players who would have done anything to see United win. They couldn't be relied upon week in and week out to steal the show, but they often came up with the goods. And they suffered some of the same treatment Lingard receives now.
One of the best anecdotes to explain the passion from former youth players came from Harry Redknapp when he was the manager at Tottenham. He reflected on an occasion when United's academy lads, who hadn't even made the bench, were carrying on like fans in the stands.
"That's why United are where they are," Redknapp said. "When we played United at White Hart Lane, my coaches were in the stands along with the United boys who weren't subs. They were jumping up and down at every decision and again when they scored their goals. That winning mentality goes right through the club. [Darron] Gibson and all the other boys wanted to play but they also have those feelings that they showed. There are not many clubs where you get that. It's something you'd like to develop. It's hard to change some people, but that's what makes winning teams."
This all would be different if Lingard was starting every week for United, as he clearly isn't of the standard you'd expect from a player in the first XI of a team that is supposed to be challenging for the title. But as an option from the bench, or used in rotation to give other players a rest, or played in a less important cup competition, he's certainly deserving of his place at the club.
Lingard will run for 90 minutes and chase down every ball. He already has more goals for the club than the likes of Alan Smith, who was adored by some supporters despite his love for Leeds, and Juan Sebastian Veron.
But the sad thing is, had United paid £30 million for Lingard and he didn't care less about the club, he would probably be given more time by the fans.
Instead, United supporters complain about his salary as if it's coming from their pocket, or berate the way he celebrates his goals as if that cancels out the fact that he scored.
After the game, it was Lingard who spent time applauding the supporters who had made the journey to south Wales on a Tuesday evening, and it was Lingard who was in Hotel Football following the final game of last season getting drinks for the supporters at the bar. It would great if the fans could show him anything like the same sort of appreciation.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.