Lingard discusses new career in Seoul
Jesse Lingard says he is raring to go after agreeing a move to FC Seoul to kickstart his career.
The Manchester United Academy graduate, who famously scored the winning goal in the 2016 FA Cup final, had been without a club since leaving Nottingham Forest last July.
After receiving a number of offers, he explained why he has opted for a switch to South Korea, and how he is ready to embrace the lifestyle and culture of the country, while bringing a smile to supporters with his performances on the pitch.
Lingard, who turned 31 in December, admits he will take a little time to get back to match sharpness, but has been working hard between the scenes.
“I’m very excited," he said. "It’s a new challenge. I’ve accepted it, I’m here and I’m ready to embrace the culture. It’s a new beginning for me, a new chapter in my career.
"I just want to enjoy playing football again, putting a smile on people’s faces and showing Korean fans what I can do.
“Over the summer, I had multiple offers and, when FC Seoul came into the equation, the commitment that they showed, they came to Manchester to watch me train. I got put through some tests by the physios in Manchester, they came with the contract on paper, so I think the commitment shown by the club really in my mind.
"I had already made up where I wanted to go because, as I say, there were multiple offers, they were all verbal offers, but the commitment shown by FC Seoul showed how much interest [they had] and how much they wanted me at the club. So it was only right for me to repay that and come to the club."
After being greeted by hundreds of fans at Seoul Incheon International Airport, many of whom wore United shirts, the K-League's big-name signing follows in the footsteps in the likes of Dalian Atkinson, Niall McGinn and Jordon Mutch as British players who made the move to the division.
FC Seoul finished seventh last term and play at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, with the hope that they can be more competitive when the campaign kicks off next month.
“I think, over the last eight months, being without a club is hard but my mindset is to never give up," he said. "Like I say, it was tough but I knew, by January, I needed to sign for a club. I was training pretty much every day.
"I had my birthday celebrations and then, after that, it was a strict programme of training every couple of days throughout the week. I flew to Dubai, I had my own personal trainer, so I was training there two times a day for two weeks and came back in great condition, physically, spiritually, mentally and in great position to sign for a club.
"Of course, I’m not match fit at the moment, I’ve not played a game since I think late October but it shouldn’t take me too long to catch up to my fitness. I look after my body very well, eating the right things. I don't drink so I'm not too far off being match fit."
"Now I’ve finally signed, I can concentrate on my football and I’m looking forward to getting back on the pitch and winning with FC Seoul because I’m a winner," he added., "I’m a competitor and I want to win trophies while I’m here.
"I came here to embrace the culture, learn new things, learn more about the K League; make it more global than it is already. Personal goals? I have them written down back at home but it’s about the team and I want to play for the team and we want to win every game.
“I understand the fans are very passionate. They show a lot of emotional support towards the players. The welcome at the airport was amazing, it’s something that I’d never seen before, so I’d like to thank the fans for that as well.
“I'll be able to explore Korea a lot more. It’s bigger than I thought, to be honest. Like I said, the people are lovely and I can’t wait to explore a little bit more now.”
Lingard has yet to met his new team-mates, as they are currently in Japan at a training camp, preparing for the new term, which begins on 2 March.
He revealed he has not spoken to former United favourite Ji-sung Park yet about the transfer but is confident he can make his mark.
Best of luck to Jesse from everybody at the club.
Reporting from Dong-hwan Kim in South Korea.