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Gareth Southgate defends England call-up for Jesse Lingard

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Gareth Southgate has defended his decision to call-up struggling Manchester United player Jesse Lingard for England’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.

England midfielder Lingard appears to have carried over last season’s struggles into the new campaign at the moment. It led United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop him to the bench during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.

The 26-year-old is clearly going through a rough patch, with United supporters slamming him on for both his on-field and off-field antics.

To the surprise of many England fans, however, Southgate decided to include Lingard in his latest squad.

But the Three Lions boss revealed that his decision was based mostly on the midfielder’s strong performances at international level.

“I think you’d have to say I’ve seen him have better spells for United,” said Southgate, according to Goal.

“I think Ole has a young, energetic team, and I think Jesse’s pressing and the energy he brings to that has been an important part of what they’ve tried to do in the first few games.

“The inclusion of Jesse for us is partly because his form for us has always been good.

“I know there were stats on his goals. He was only involved in four games for us last season because of injury – two starts and two off the bench.

“He scored two and had a goal disallowed when he came on in the Nations League game. He had a very good World Cup.

“When you’re selecting a team, there’s half an eye on club form but also I don’t remember a game where he’s been really poor for us.

“He has different attributes. I think for him and for everybody else, there is serious competition and if they aren’t scoring for us or they aren’t scoring for their clubs, that can make things more difficult.”

Lingard managed just five goals and four assists in 36 appearances last season for United, and is yet to open his account this term.

Southgate added: “But, equally, I think it’s good that we support him at this moment, in that you could argue club-wise, he’s on the fringes and whether he should be ahead of others.

“But I don’t think there are too many that we haven’t included that should be ahead of him, and his performance for us has been very, very good.”

England will meet Bulgaria next Saturday in Group A for their first qualifier before meeting Kosovo three days later.

GUIMARAES, PORTUGAL – JUNE 05: Gareth Southgate manager of England and Jesse Lingard in discussion on the pitch during England media access on the eve of their UEFA Nations League match against the Netherlands at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques on June 05, 2019 in Guimaraes, Portugal. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)