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Jesse Lingard At Manchester United: A Reflection

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Jesse Lingard At Manchester United: A Reflection

Manchester United have announced Jesse Lingard's departure after nearly 22 years with the club, the 29-year-old joined United’s training academy as a seven-year-old back in 2001.

He departs the club having left a certain question unanswered: “What could’ve been?” This has become a popular topic of discussion when considering quite a few players who have left United in recent years.

Starting his senior career with United as an academy graduate back in the 2014-15 season, the Englishman has scored 35 goals and assisted 21 times in a total of 232 appearances.

Jesse Lingard is reportedly pushing for a move to St James' Park (Image: Alamy)
Jesse Lingard is reportedly pushing for a move to St James' Park (Image: Alamy)

These numbers are far from ideal considering the fact that he is an attacking midfielder, but most of these contributions have come from his earlier seasons with the club.

His performances in recent years have been nothing short of outlandish, to say the least.

First Impressions

When it came to his initial years with the club, they were as right as rain, involving a certain amount of struggle that every academy graduate has to go through when they are representing a club as huge as Manchester United.


Lingard was living the dream as he held out hope to stay in the first team after an excellent pre-season tour with Manchester United in the summer of 2013.

However, United manager David Moyes believed he wasn't yet prepared and sent him on a month-long loan to Birmingham City in the Championship.

Lingard was chosen in the starting XI for the Blues' league match against Sheffield Wednesday two days later, and he was immediately put into action.

The then youngster, who had already played in the Championship with Leicester City, understood what to expect at this stage and was determined to disprove his critics.


After 20 minutes, Lingard grabbed his first senior goal, and 13 minutes later, he sealed his hat-trick. Lingard added a fourth goal in the second half to complete the 4-1 triumph.

First-team breakthrough

Lingard didn't score his first senior goal for United until November 2015, despite his strong goalscoring form in the Championship and on pre-season tours with the club.


United were holding West Bromwich Albion to a goalless stalemate at half-time and needed something exceptional to settle the issue.

Lingard stepped up to score it 1-0 for United immediately after the resumption with a stunning bending attempt from outside of the box. United may have won that game 2-0, but it was the boyhood hero Lingard who took all the headlines that fateful day.

Lingard was eventually managing to carve out a reputation for himself at Old Trafford, scoring three more goals in the 2015/16 campaign. His fourth goal of the season came in a 1–1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on February 7, 2016, when he broke the deadlock by scoring a beauty, while spinning inside the Blues' box.

Perhaps this goal made him a household name for some of the United faithful. And for the others, they will remember him most fondly for his fifth and final goal of the season.


Manchester United had reached the FA Cup final and would meet Crystal Palace in the final. United were the favourites, therefore Van Gaal went with a more experienced line-up, with Lingard on the bench.

The midfielder was ultimately introduced in the second half as United sought new motivation.

Jesse Lingard comes on as a sub in the FA Cup final. (Alamy)
Jesse Lingard comes on as a sub in the FA Cup final. (Alamy)

After Palace took the lead, Juan Mata equalized late in the game, taking things into extra time.

Lingard was once again there to capitalize on the chance as United probed for a winner, volleying home in the 110th minute and securing the silverware for United.

The Jose Era

The appointment of Jose Mourinho as Manchester United manager in the summer of 2016 felt like a silver lining for Lingard, who had yet to find a concrete place in the United starting XI.

The legendary Portuguese manager did manage to provide him with the most minutes that he has ever enjoyed under any manager to date. However, he was often utilized on the right-wing as opposed to his preferred attacking-midfield position. 

Jose might not have been able to get the best output out of him, but Lingard did manage to score some iconic goals yet again and almost seemed like a big-game player that you could rely on when the team was down a goal or two, or even when they needed a winner. 

He backed up his late winner at Wembley with two more goals in two separate finals in the 2016/17 campaign. 

The first came in the Community Shield against Leicester City, the defending Premier League holders. Lingard netted the game's first goal, putting United ahead after he received the ball on the half-way line, waltzed through the Leicester defence and converted with panache.

United would return to Wembley in the EFL Cup final against Southampton some months later. The academy graduate increased his record of goals at Wembley by delivering United's second of the game and leading them to glory.

Just three footballers in history have struck in each of those finals, and Jesse happens to be one of them.

Oh, how can we overlook the time when he turned the Emirates into his very own dancefloor? The man loved scoring against Arsenal, and it is proven by the fact that he had three goals in four games against them while playing under the Special One.

Ole’s appointment, drop in form, personal issues

After Jose Mourinho was dismissed as Manchester United's coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was named as interim manager to help flip the club's season around in 2018/19.

The new manager's first game in command came against Cardiff City, who were in danger of relegation. The Red Devils needed to win this game to gain ground on the top five.

Lingard was again on peak form when it was needed the most in a crushing 5-1 triumph, scoring two goals and assisting another in what was a superb first effort under the new boss.

Despite these earlier heroics, Lingard found himself replaced by Bruno Fernandes in the winter transfer window. He might have bagged a lot of huge, important goals, but his attacking output was not quite good enough, and United felt as if they needed a new creator from the middle of the pitch.

And once the Portuguese magnifico was signed, Jesse’s form suffered a major dip which saw him going more than a year without scoring a Premier League goal. These issues put together along with his mental health & personal struggles saw the man who was once a club hero slump down to what was just a fringe player. 

Jesse Lingard in 2019/20. (Alamy)
Jesse Lingard in 2019/20. (Alamy)

At the club, Bruno Fernandes and Dan James were chosen instead of Lingard, while Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho overtook him in the England squad.

Lingard, however, was given the opportunity against Leicester City on the closing day of the 2019/20 season. United headed into the game with the intent of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.

The situation was dire for United, and they finally broke through in the 71st minute thanks to a penalty from Fernandes. With Chelsea prevailing by a comfortable margin in the other decisive game, United knew they had to hang on to their lead.

Lingard came on to replace Mason Greenwood in the dying 15 minutes of the game, with United hanging on to the third-place. With the game's emotions at an all-time high, Lingard stepped up to score a crucial goal right before the end.

He had sealed a Champions League spot for United in traditional fashion with his sole Premier League goal of the season, and his first since December 2018.

Final seasons with the club

Lingard, yet again, found himself in the dark at Old Trafford at the outset of the 2020/21 season. He was falling down the ranks for both club and country, and with Euro 2020 set to take place in the summer of 2021, he needed to make a transfer if he wanted to be considered. Lingard was permitted to join Premier League adversaries West Ham United late in the January transfer window, marking the fifth loan move in his career. It was a decision that seemed like one that could change the course of his career.

The kid who thrives on making an impression grabbed two goals in his first game for the Hammers, a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa. Lingard's brilliance continued as he emerged as one of the league's most in-form individuals, scoring nine goals and providing four assists in just ten appearances. His goal output wasn't just outstanding in terms of quantity, but also terms of quality.

Jesse Lingard could be set for a return to West Ham United.
Jesse Lingard could be set for a return to West Ham United.

A spectacular solo effort against Wolverhampton Wanderers was among the greatest, but a brilliant shot from beyond the box against Arsenal was possibly the best pick of the bunch.

Lingard was selected by England manager Gareth Southgate for their World Cup qualifiers as a result of his improved form, yet he was not added to the squad for the Euros.

As a result, Lingard has been linked with a long-term move to West Ham. However, he midfielder then stayed at United for the remainder of the next season. Solskjaer was hesitant to transfer the England international, fearful of being shorthanded in an injury crisis.

A goal off the bench against Newcastle United in September, as well as a last-minute winner over West Ham the following weekend, underlined some of the benefits of retaining Lingard as a squad option. But he was an unused substitute in five league games under Solskjaer, and the Newcastle game was his only appearance that lasted more than 17 minutes before Rangnick took over in early December. 

Jesse Lingard in 2021/22. (Alamy)
Jesse Lingard in 2021/22. (Alamy)

Lingard's pressing and ball holding skills could have allowed him to play as a "wide 10" in Rangnick's 4-2-2-2 setup, but the interim manager quickly switched to a 4-3-3 formation to refocus creative attention on Bruno Fernandes in central zones.

Anthony Elanga's confidence and eagerness to run behind opposing defenders saw a player who will turn 30 midway through next season fall further out of the starting XI, but when the newly-rich Newcastle made a loan approach in the final days of January, United put an exorbitantly hefty price tag on him.

Despite Rangnick's approval for Lingard's departure, transfers to Tottenham and West Ham were also blocked due to board concerns about bolstering a possible top-four opponent.

It has lead us to a situation that both United fans and Lingard himself would have wanted to end differently.

From losing the faith and support of the fans due to a few questionable social media posts from his brother to him playing a largely diminished role in one of United’s worst-ever seasons is the bitter end to a story that always felt like a fairy-tale at the start. 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United, Jose Mourinho, Louis Van Gaal, David Moyes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick, Football, Premier League

Aadit Mehta
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