Football: Freedom of play gives us wins, relief: Lingard

Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring the first goal for Manchester United  against Stoke City on Feb 2, 2016.
Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring the first goal for Manchester United against Stoke City on Feb 2, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Jesse Lingard believes that Manchester United must ignore the Old Trafford crowd after being given a new freedom to express themselves under Louis van Gaal.

Lingard said that a burden has been lifted from the United players and the 3-0 win over Stoke City on Tuesday marked a sharp departure from the Dutch manager's suffocating tactics, helping to quell an increasingly mutinous atmosphere at Old Trafford.

Lingard said that a change of approach against Stoke and in the 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win away to Derby County four days earlier has come as a relief to players who were struggling to block out the boos from a frustrated crowd.

"Now we are playing with that freedom," the United winger said before Sunday's visit to Chelsea.

"We've got a lot of energy in the team and to be mixing up the positions and entertain the crowd - we'll have to do that.

"It has been difficult but we've shown great character to get through the tough stages and as long as we've got the fans behind us we'll come through the storm."

Despite the Stoke win, United remain five points adrift of Arsenal, in fourth, and face a serious battle to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Ed Woodward is likely to be quizzed about van Gaal's position and the financial impact of missing out on Champions League qualification for the second time in three seasons when he addresses investors next week.

The United executive vice-chairman will hold a conference call next Thursday to discuss the release of the club's second-quarter accounts. Missing out on last season's Champions League cost United almost a total of £38 million (S$77.9 million) in revenue.

Woodward has resisted calls from supporters for a managerial change amid a determination to back van Gaal and there are hopes at the club of some momentum gathering after five wins and a draw from seven matches since the turn of the year.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'Freedom of play gives us wins, relief: Lingard'. Print Edition | Subscribe