10 Dec, 11:00
Never did I think I’d put Jesse Lingard in the same bracket as Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane.
But if De Bruyne and Sane are the men most likely to make the difference for Manchester City this afternoon, then Lingard can be that man for Manchester United.
No-one should underestimate the impact a local lad can have in a derby.
They can make you sink or swim.
Think of the importance over the years of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard for Liverpool, John Terry for Chelsea, and Sol Campbell for Tottenham and Arsenal.
They understood the value of these game, the importance of them to the fans.
United have two local lads in Lingard and Marcus Rashford and, while Rashford is playing well, Lingard is the man in real form.
He’s hot, he’s scoring goals, and he has a pace to burn, which is why I’d be tempted to start him ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic if I was the United boss.
But if the Portuguese set out his stall the way I expect him to, then Lingard will be more of a threat to City than Zlatan.
Mourinho’s game-plan today will be fascinating.
With the calibre of players he has at his disposal, Mourinho will surely plan to catch table-topping City on the break.
Ibrahimovic has been out for a long time and, fit as he is, he doesn’t have the explosive pace of Lingard.
Lingard, Rashford, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku have been linking well in recent weeks for United, which is why I’d go down that route.
I’m convinced Mourinho will do after he left Lingard on the bench for the Champions League game against CSKA Moscow in midweek.