Jesse Lingard sent Cristiano Ronaldo Man Utd message by England boss Gareth Southgate

Man Utd fans snap up Ronaldo shirts at Old Trafford

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Jesse Lingard has been urged to rise to the challenge of competing with Cristiano Ronaldo for minutes at Manchester United by England boss Gareth Southgate. The Three Lions romped to their second successive 4-0 victory on Sunday, easing past minnows Andorra at Wembley.

It has been a fruitful international break for England so far, with a routine victory following a rather more tense affair in Hungary on Thursday.

Against Andorra, Lingard shone amongst a talented squad, notching two goals and setting up another as Southgate’s side extended their perfect World Cup qualifying campaign to five wins from five.

Rather topically, the 28-year-old marked one of his goals with Ronaldo’s trademark celebration.

Having been linked with a move back to West Ham where Lingard shone during the second-half of last season, the attacking midfielder instead opted to stay at Old Trafford and compete for minutes.

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Daniel James made way on deadline day, but there is still fierce competition for game time in attacking positions, made that much harder by Ronaldo’s arrival.

Jadon Sancho was brought in for big money this summer, Mason Greenwood has scored in each of his first three Premier League games, Paul Pogba has recently played some of his best football off the left, while Marcus Rashford will also return from injury soon enough.

With the odds stacked against him, Southgate has called on Lingard to rise to the challenge in order to keep his spot in England’s squad.

The England boss said: “We know Jesse has a challenge and he knows he has a big challenge with the quality of attacking players at United.

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“But they’ve also got a lot of matches in different competitions so hopefully he can 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.”

Indeed, this is the year when Lingard’s gamble must pay off, with the Qatar World Cup looming in 2022.

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The onus will be on the United academy product to make it this time round after narrowly missing out on the squad which made it all the way to the final of Euro 2020.

After his scintillating spell with the Hammers last season and his sprightly pre-season with United, Southgate is clearly hopeful that he can keep stringing together performances. 

Whether Lingard will be able to continue that form for United remains to be seen, as the risk of sparce minutes stemming his momentum could push others to the front of the queue in time for the World Cup.

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