EXCLUSIVE – Jesse Lingard believes a false No.9 role is the “perfect” position for him to thrive in at Manchester United.
Lingard has traditionally been deployed as a winger but interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has opted to tweak the 26-year-old’s role in recent weeks.
The tactical alteration, which has seen Lingard move into an advanced position at the tip of United’s midfield diamond, has been a key reason behind United’s resurgence under the Norwegian.
Speaking exclusively to Squawka, Lingard said: “It’s a different role – it’s like a false nine I would say. It’s an enjoyable role as you’re free most times.
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“You can hit teams on the counter attack fast and you always have a player either side of you so it’s perfect for me.
“You’re closer to the goal, you’re going to get more opportunities to score and help the team.
“Mike [Phelan] and Kieran [McKenna] take a lot of the tactics and they’ve been great. Everyone has really taken to Ole and Mike and we’re enjoying life at the moment.”
Solskjaer has spoken passionately about a desire not to stray from United’s traditional attacking philosophy, having played under Sir Alex Ferguson during his own playing career.
The interim manager’s stance on entertaining football is one Lingard knows well, having progressed through United’s youth academy before making the grade at first-team level.
The England international is one of four academy graduates in Solskjaer’s squad and still values what he learned during his formative years at Old Trafford highly.
“To have that winning mentality and to know what it’s like being at Manchester United,” Lingard said when asked about the lessons he has been able to carry with him into his senior career.
“You get used to winning matches even at a young age and it takes you all the way to the first team.
“To win games is pivotal, there’s a lot of pressure and expectations but you can deal with that [having progressed through the academy].”
United’s upturn in form has seen the feel-good factor among fans restored as Solskjaer’s men have successfully clawed their way back into the race for a top-four finish.
The Red Devils are just two points behind fifth-placed Chelsea and will return to the Champions League places if they beat Fulham on Saturday.