Jesse Lingard: I believe in this team
A game like Manchester United v Manchester City is always going to be a big occasion for any player but, for Jesse Lingard, this weekend's fixture is going to mean just that little bit more.
The 25-year-old, from Warrington, signed his first professional contract with United in 2009 and is now in his ninth full season with the club. He has come a long way from the small, skinny schoolboy who was played down in age groups, when battles with City were typically physical affairs.
Speaking to MUTV ahead of the derby, Lingard discussed the rivalry between Manchester City and United, and explained what it meant to come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in last season's clash.
“The win last season there was a mad feeling and, hopefully, we can do it again," said Lingard, who admitted “it will always do" when asked if the derby has special meaning for him.
The Reds' remarkable turnaround in the April derby, courtesy of Paul Pogba's brace and Chris Smalling's winner, maintained a pretty decent record on City's home turf. United have won seven of the previous 15 visits in the Premier League and have not suffered an away defeat at the hands of our rivals since November 2014.
“We've done well there and it's just about fine margins sometimes," Lingard said. "We kept our mental state last season and got the win in the end. The way the fans were supporting us, even at 2-0 down, they stayed with us and backed us throughout the game and that spurred us on.”
Our no.14 is hoping to make an impact on Sunday's return to the Etihad Stadium, after recently recovering from a groin problem and starting in the spectacular midweek triumph at Juventus.
“I think these big games are what you play for," he asserted. "The more pressure there is, you fire off that pressure. They're the games you want to be involved in, like everyone else. The most important thing is to believe, in ourselves, that we can do it. I believe in this team."
Lingard himself is certainly feeling more powerful than ever, having been working hard in the gym. Showing off his muscles, he joked: "I'm getting big! I'm definitely getting stronger. I think you need to be in tip-top shape to prepare for the games correctly.
"I've not been doing anything specific really, just a lot of upper body work and core work. "It doesn't matter how big or small you are, if you know your core is stable, you can handle anything on the pitch."
Jesse tasted the intensity of Manchester derbies long before he broke into the first team. During his time in the United youth set-up he scored in a 6-1 thrashing of City back in 2011 in the Premier Academy League and also played the full 90 minutes as the Reds ran out 2-0 victors in the Manchester Senior Cup final in 2012.
"I remember that 6-1 win and things like that," he said. "We always played them throughout the age groups and they were big games and, especially in the cups, it was a special feeling.
“There was pretty much always that rivalry from an early age, in every game. You carry it on to the first team. They were intense games as everyone came to watch those matches.
“In derbies, there were always tackles flying in," he added. "You have to think about, as a team, how you correct yourself to have a good mental state, to have a good mentality going into the game and throughout the game.”
JESSE LINGARD'S UNITED RECORD AGAINST MANCHESTER CITY
19 February 2011 – Premier Academy League – United 6 City 1 – Scored 2nd goal.
09 February 2012 – Manchester Senior Cup – United 2 City 4 – Scored 1st goal.
17 May 2012 – Manchester Senior Cup final – City 0 United 2 – Played 90 minutes.
27 January 2014 – Under-21 Premier League – United 1 City 2 – Scored.
25 October 2015 – Premier League – United 0 City 0 – Played 23 minutes as sub.
20 March 2016 – Premier League – City 0 United 1 – Played full 90 minutes.
10 September 2016 – Premier League – United 1 City 2 – Substituted at half-time.
26 October 2016 – EFL Cup 4th Round – United 1 City 0 – Played 10 minutes as sub.
27 April 2017 – Premier League – City 0 United 0 – Played 10 minutes as sub.
10 December 2017 – Premier League – United 1 City 2 – Played for 76 minutes.
07 April 2018 – Premier League – City 2 United 3 - Played for 85 minutes.
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