Jesse Lingard: My United journey
Jesse Lingard's s pathway from the Academy to the first team included a number of loan spells that set him up for life in the Manchester United first team.
WEARING THE SHIRT FOR THE FIRST TIME
“I remember pulling the shirt on for the first time when I was about one, when I first kicked a ball… well, I can’t remember it, but I’ve got a picture of it! So that’s my first memory of a United kit. Then when I was seven, I started to have trials and I signed when I was nine. It was left down to me to pick a club, really, and I felt Man United was best suited for me personally, so I chose United. There were other clubs interested – City, Liverpool, Everton, also Crewe at the time – so I had a handful of choices. But I knew Man United was going to be my home.”
MIXING WITH THE FIRST TEAM
"I was cleaning boots for the first team, that was still going when I was coming through the ranks, around the Under-16s, Under-18s. You used to get chores around the training ground, like cleaning boots, making drinks, bringing the balls in. It was good principles and morals [to be taught] at that time. There were also Christmas tips from the senior players which was all right, y’know! They weren’t too bad (laughs) but, at Christmas-time, they made the young ones do a song or a dance in the canteen – I remember doing a bit of a dance, there were some funny ones. They don’t do it any more for some reason but I think they should bring it back, to be honest!
"Coming through, the ones I looked up to personally were Scholesy and Giggsy, obviously Wazza and Ronaldo too, but growing up and being around them at the time, they were the ones there to give advice. Rio as well, Nani was there at the time. There were a lot of players around to give good advice but it was mainly Scholesy and Giggsy that I looked up to. Most of the players did that [gave advice] in the first team – like when you’d go on the pre-season tour, you’re one of the youngsters and so you’d get players like Rio, who would put their arm round you and just say things like, ‘Enjoy your football, play your own game.’ And that does give you that confidence. Also the staff at the time – Sir Alex was amazing, Rene Meulensteen was amazing when I was coming through. So for me, I had it all set in stone.”
THE LOAN YEARS
“I went out on loan to get match minutes and to see what it’s like in those leagues. When you’re in those changing rooms and people are playing for points, that’s when you really know and it really kicks in. You’ve got to help them get their points, you don’t want to come in and fob it off because you’re going back to Manchester United, you need to really knuckle down and help them, which I did. At that time, Sir Alex was great with me and going out on loan helped me 100 per cent. The first time was with Leicester, and then it was Birmingham, Brighton and Derby. It was the real world – I was living on my own, in a hotel.
"At those times I was only going for three months here, three months there, so I stayed in hotels, eating hotel food. It wasn’t right but it had to be done. It could be lonely, to be fair. You’d just go back to your hotel room and watch films, so it can be secluded staying in a hotel, but once you get out there and go to training, you come alive then. I made an impact at Birmingham, and then to come back to United I knew – I think it was after one tour – that I still wasn’t ready to make the jump. I knew in myself, so I took it upon myself to go back out on loan.”
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“I went out on the 2013/14 pre-season tour under David Moyes and I scored a few goals, and I was in the matchday squads and travelling, but not being on the bench and not playing. So I needed games and minutes, and so I took it upon myself to get back out on loan and get some much-needed minutes, as I hadn’t been playing since the start of the season. I spoke to David Moyes and he agreed that for a player just to be travelling and sitting in the stands all the time, it can be mentally tough. I believed in myself but it came in stages. I think I still need to more, even to this day, to be honest. You need to believe in your own ability, have the confidence to play, have the confidence to get on the ball and make things happen. That’s what type of player I am.”
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THAT LONG-AWAITED FIRST-TEAM DEBUT
“It was frustrating – all my family were there, my friends, and all the texts were flooding in before the game wishing me good luck, but it’s just one of those things. It happens, it was a setback but I really didn't dwell on it. I got back but I wasn’t really fully fit, so I dipped out on loan again and went to Derby for the rest of the season. We were trying to get into the play-offs, which we didn’t, unfortunately, but I knew within myself when the right time was to play for the first team. I couldn’t just be thrown in willy-nilly, it had to be the right time for me. To come back and start again with another pre-season, I had to try to prove myself once more. It’s always tough, but you’ve got to get through those moments. Looking back at the trophies I’ve won now – the EFL Cup, the FA Cup, Europa League, Community Shield… winning those are the best moments in my career, they’re at the top, and to score in three out of those four games is huge.”
To read the full interview with Jesse buy the January 2020 issue of Inside United, our official club magazine.