Lingard's time at Man Utd will be remembered for what could have been
The rise and fall of Jesse Lingard: He became a first-team star in 2015 – after four loan spells! – but fitness issues, off-field distractions and family anger mean his time at Manchester United will be a tale of what COULD have been
- Jesse Lingard looks set to leave Manchester United at the end of the season
- The 29-year-old playmaker’s contract at Old Trafford expires in the summer
- After four loan spells, he finally broke into the side under Louis van Gaal in 2015
- A memorable 2016 FA Cup final winner was the highlight in a topsy-turvy time
- Lingard was also criticised for off-field distractions, like his own clothing brand
Confined to a place on the bench once more, you could have forgiven Jesse Lingard for thinking Ralf Rangnick may give him once last chance in red under the Old Trafford lights.
But, in what was likely his final opportunity, the playmaker remained amongst the substitutes against Brentford on Monday night. Cue an angry social media post from his brother, branding Manchester United ‘classless’, and a 22-year affiliation comes to a bitter end.
Lingard himself is said to be saddened that he did not get an opportunity to say farewell with an appearance on the pitch. But he’s used to that. After all, he has started just twice in the Premier League this season, the worst for some time for the Red Devils.
Jesse Lingard is set to leave Manchester United when his contract expires this summer
Lingard (left) was left on the bench for Manchester United’s win over Brentford, with his brother Louie Scott posting a furious message on Instagram (right) after the game
Lingard’s contract at United expires this summer and despite speculation that incoming boss Erik ten Hag is keen to discuss the 29-year-old’s future, it’d be best for all involved if he opted for pastures new. What he needs, desperately, at this stage of his career is regular minutes.
It is a glum conclusion to a United career which promised so much. Then again, it took some time to get going given Lingard’s immense talent.
Originally part of the famed Under-18 squad which won the FA Youth Cup in 2011 – alongside a certain Paul Pogba, who is also on his way out this summer – he had to wait three years for his first-team debut.
Loan spells at Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton, largely impressive outings too, were his first taste of first-team action before Louis van Gaal gave him his big break at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, making his debut in a shock 2-1 loss at home to Swansea.
Lingard was part of the U18s who won the FA Youth Cup in 2011 – alongside Paul Pogba
It was a nightmare debut, coming off due to injury after 24 minutes. He didn’t feature in the league again, as he completed the final of his four loan spells at Derby in the second half of that season.
It was the next campaign where Lingard really came to the fore. He played 40 times for the Red Devils in all competitions, and the last of his six goals was to remember.
With the 2016 FA Cup final against Crystal Palace heading to penalties, the substitute met a volley with his weaker left foot to perfection, the ball arrowing into the top-corner as the then-23-year-old secured his first major trophy.
Lingard’s biggest moment came in 2016 when he netted the winner in the FA Cup final
The playmaker after the Wembley triumph – one of four trophies won with the Red Devils
Later that year, he made his England debut. Eighteen months after that came his first England goal. Less than six months later, he was starring for his country on an unlikely run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, scoring a memorable goal against Panama.
The sun was finally shining bright for Lingard. But Russia was the peak; the decline followed.
He starred for England during their memorable run at the 2018 World Cup
He struggled amid a downturn in form across the team under Jose Mourinho, and coincided preparation for a crunch December clash at Liverpool with launching his own clothing brand, JLingz.
A decision which, unsurprisingly, did not go down well with United legend Roy Keane
Speaking as a pundit on Sky Sports, Keane said: ‘If that was a good, strong dressing room that wouldn’t be tolerated. That’s why I worry about the United dressing room.
‘For a young player, still learning his trade, he could be the nicest kid in the world, I don’t know him. But you’re coming out with all that nonsense.
‘I think football should be your number one priority. People say you should have other stuff outside of football but I don’t think you should. Don’t hide behind your cars or tattoos or girlfriends, you can do that when you retire!’
Lingard was criticised for launching his clothing range, JLingz, before United faced Liverpool
As it happens, Lingard actually scored at Anfield in what would prove to be Mourinho’s last game in charge.
But despite netting twice at Cardiff in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge, he never cemented a place in the Norwegian’s first XI.
Stop-start would best describe Lingard’s functionality under Solskjaer. A memorable goal was usually followed by disappointment. Momentum was hard to come by.
Yet at the back-end of last season, the forgotten man sprung back into the Premier League spotlight, thriving on loan at West Ham in a 16-game spell which saw him net nine goals. He was named Player of the Month for April 2021 for good measure.
What should have then happened is the following: Lingard should have pushed, aggressively, for a permanent move to the London Stadium.
Lingard scored at Anfield in what would prove to be Jose Mourinho’s last game in charge
LINGARD AT MAN UTD
Trophies: 4 (FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League, Community Shield)
Instead, having narrowly missed out on the final selection cut for Euro 2020, Solskjaer saw an obvious chance to bolster his squad with a player whose talent was now not in doubt.
But it never happened. Even when coming off the bench to score a terrific winner against the Hammers in September, Lingard could not nail down a starting spot. A matter of days earlier, he had cost United the match in the dying seconds with a stray backpass against Young Boys.
Even a January move to Newcastle did not materialise. Lingard asked for some time off as a result of United putting obstacles in the way of the North-East.
Monday night was seemingly the final straw for his brother, Louie Scott. He wrote on Instagram: ’20 years of blood sweat and tears, 4 domestic trophies, 3 cup final goal, not even a farewell.
‘No wonder it’s Conference League next year.
Lingard displayed his talent with a terrific loan spell at West Ham at the end of last season
‘Attacking players for celebrations when the clubs being sold to the super league ok. Class of 92, Busby Babes, you’re ran by people who don’t even know the offside trap. Classless and the fans need to realise. Goodnight, godbless!’
Lingard is now in talks with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle, with negotiations said to be at an advanced stage with two of those clubs.
Whoever signs him on a no-brainer of a free transfer will be getting a player with masses of talent – but who has his limitations. No doubt he’ll have a flurry of top performances but can he make it last for months?
That was always the problem. And, unfortunately for lovers of players progressing through the ranks, that sense of ‘what if’ will be the overriding feeling when Lingard eventually departs in a couple of weeks.
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