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'Lingard is the English Iniesta' - Meulensteen says Man Utd star would shine at Barcelona

16:13 GMT 26/01/2018
Jesse Lingard Manchester United Derby
The former Red Devils coach believes the England international boasts many of the attributes which have made a World Cup winner an icon at Camp Nou

Jesse Lingard has impressed for Manchester United of late and Rene Meulensteen considers him to be the "English Andres Iniesta".

The 25-year-old midfielder has rarely been considered a regular starter since making the breakthrough at Old Trafford, never mind one of the brightest stars in the Red Devils galaxy.

He has, however, proved his worth this season, with a recent productive run in front of goal delivering eight strikes in 10 appearances.

Lingard has been showered with praise on the back of that contribution, and a former United first-team coach has now likened him to a World Cup-winning icon on Barcelona’s books.

Meulensteen, who worked with the youth and reserve sides at Old Trafford before returning to assist Sir Alex Ferguson in 2007, told Bleacher Report of Lingard: "I saw so many similarities in their games, and I always believed that Jesse was the English Andres Iniesta.

"Like Iniesta, he finds these pockets of space, he is always on the move and has very good feet. The only thing missing until recently was goals, but now Jesse is scoring important goals too.

"In my opinion, you could fly Jesse to Barcelona, let him play in Iniesta's position, and he would comfortably be able to do it and fit in. And he does it in the Premier League, which is more difficult than La Liga, so that is a credit to Jesse.”

Meulensteen can claim to have helped put Lingard on the path to the top, having worked with him in United’s academy set-up.

He admits that he was not the only one to spot obvious potential at that time, with senior stars such as Ruud van Nistelrooy and Diego Forlan impressed by what they saw from a promising youngster.

"I can recall players like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Diego Forlan coming down to watch our sessions, and when they saw Jesse, both said, 'Jesus, this boy is good!'" added the Dutchman, who recently left a role with Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters.

"The major concern with Lingard was always about his being significantly smaller than the other boys in his age group, and when he was an under-18, he stayed with the under-16s because of his size. But the United coaches refused to lose faith and believed he would just take longer to mature as a player.  

"In England, you need physical strength, and we knew Jesse was never going to be like Cristiano Ronaldo. But Sir Alex himself was never worried by Jesse's size; all he ever asked us coaches was, 'Can the boy play?'"