Lingard's spirit, desire have made him invaluable to Mourinho's Man United
MANCHESTER, England -- Jesse Lingard offered an instructive insight into his character when he missed a glorious chance to score for Manchester United, five minutes after being introduced as a half-time replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Burnley on Tuesday.
Trailing 2-0 and facing a first Old Trafford defeat against the Turf Moor outfit since 1962, Lingard somehow directed Ashley Young's cross into the face of goalkeeper Nick Pope from 2 yards, before seeing the ball loop onto the crossbar and drop down again before being hacked away by a defender's boot.
The crowd howled in derision and Lingard probably heard a few of the more personal insults aimed in his direction.
But while some of his teammates -- Romelu Lukaku, for one -- have displayed a habit for retreating into their shell and, for want of a better word, sulking, when they miss a chance and the crowd gets on their back, Lingard shrugged off his mistake, maintained his focus and then scored a goal to drag United back into the game two minutes later.
And it was not a simple goal, either. With Young once again delivering from the right, Lingard pulled away from his marker before attempting a back-heeled flick from the edge of the 6-yard box.
There was no lack of confidence from the England forward, no hiding from the inevitable condemnation that would have rained down had he missed. Lingard simply attempted an audacious effort on goal and was rewarded when the ball flew past Pope and hit the back of the net.
The 25-year-old also missed an easy chance at Leicester at the weekend, when he rounded the goalkeeper and hit the post with United leading 2-1. When Leicester equalised deep into stoppage time, Lingard's failure to take his chance proved costly.
But while Lingard continues to fight for affection and respect of a section of United's fanbase, he does not show it.
Lukaku may have refused to celebrate his goal against Bournemouth earlier this month after being criticised for his performance against Manchester City, and therefore suggesting the fans have no right to complain about his contribution, but Lingard celebrated each of his goals as though they had just won the Champions League, despite the criticism he is often on the receiving end of.
Ryan Giggs spoke last week about certain players being "Manchester United players" and Lingard ticks that box. Not because he can beat a man like Giggs, score a 25-yard strike like David Beckham or dominate a game like Roy Keane, but because he has the toughness of character to overcome setbacks and simply get on with the job.
Lukaku does not do that, Henrikh Mkhitaryan picks and chooses when he does and Anthony Martial has only just started to do it, but Lingard always turns up when it matters and when it is tough and, against Burnley, he did it again, with his first goal and then the equaliser, deep into stoppage time.
Lingard has now scored six goals in his past seven Premier League games for United. He did not figure against Bristol City in the Carabao Cup last week, when United were eliminated 2-1, but his will to win might have made a crucial difference at Ashton Gate.
His stunning solo goal at Watford earlier this month prompted some to nickname him "Messi Lingard", but while there is plenty of humour in that one, Lingard is certainly deserving of some kind of love and affection from the United supporters.
Sir Alex Ferguson always claimed that the Warrington-born midfielder would be a late developer and he was sent on loan to Leicester, Watford, Birmingham and Derby before being handed his United debut by Louis van Gaal on the opening day of the 2014-15 season.
He has had his ups and downs since, with injuries curtailing his progress at times, but Lingard has scored big goals in cup finals for United, earned himself a place in the England squad and proved to Mourinho that he has the ability and passion to play in his first team at Old Trafford.
Some of his better-paid and more-expensive teammates would do well to take a leaf out of Lingard's book in terms of his refusal to be beaten down by negativity. But perhaps his personality and outlook on the game is due to his upbringing as a United player, one who has been schooled by the club and whose traits have been finessed by the principles imposed by Ferguson throughout his reign in charge.
Lingard may not have the natural talent of many of his United teammates, but you cannot put a price on spirit and desire, and he has both qualities in abundance. Too many inside the United dressing room do not have enough of the latter, however, and that is why Lingard has become such an important player for Mourinho.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_