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Now is the time for the FA Cup final hero to leave Man Utd

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Jesse Lingard is still under contract with Manchester United until the summer of 2022, but he will end this season on loan at West Ham and it’s hard to imagine him playing for his childhood club again as he reaches a critical career crossroads.

Although his longer-term future is not fully settled until the summer – the club triggered a contract extension last month in an effort to preserve transfer value instead – Lingard will be saying goodbye to United more than 20 years since ‘he joined the youth ranks. .

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Jesse Lingard stepped out of the Man Utd youth ranks | Dan Istitene / Getty Images

Lingard grew up as a United fan and got the chance to play for the club he loves for the first time at the age of seven. He rose through the ranks and is part of the squad that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011 alongside Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison, United’s latest success in the historic competition.

The player started getting involved with the first team shortly thereafter and was later picked by new manager David Moyes for the 2013 preseason tour, during which he scored four goals. It was actually Lingard who scored United’s first goal after Sir Alex Ferguson retired, in a touring game against an A-League All-Stars XI in Australia.

Loans with Leicester, Birmingham and Brighton in the Championship between 2012 and 2014 came before Lingard made his official United debut, picked as a surprise starter at right-back by Louis van Gaal on the campaign’s opening day of Premier League 2014/15. .

Unfortunately his afternoon only lasted 24 minutes due to injury and Lingard was sent off on loan, this time to Derby, when he regained his fitness a few months later.

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Lingard made his Premier League debut in August 2014 | Alex Livesey / Getty Images

At the age of 22, most players at a big club might be wondering if their chance to get there will ever come. Two months before his 23rd birthday, Lingard finally did. Van Gaal turned to him in October 2015 and he played in the Premier League and Champions League within days.

He got his first United assist in the Champions League against CSKA Moscow in early November, then scored his first official Premier League goal against West Brom. After a short period of disgrace, Lingard scored against Newcastle on his return in January and became a permanent player from that point on, cementing him with new strikes against Stoke and Chelsea.

Lingard appeared in every round of the FA Cup that season, starting five of United’s seven games. He was on the bench for the final at Wembley, but his career defining moment, coming in to score an overtime end winner, was like a childhood fantasy come to life.

If for nothing else, Lingard deserves his place in United history for this feat alone. Personal fame aside, he won the club’s first trophy in the post-Ferguson era, a huge hurdle to overcome, and tied the record at the time for most FA Cup wins in history. of the competition.

Jesse Lingard
Lingard scored the winner of the 2016 FA Cup final | Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Lingard remained with the squad after Jose Mourinho took office in 2016, despite fears the Portuguese could do without young players like him and Marcus Rashford, and had his career-best season so far in 2017. / 18 when it has obtained 20 goals and assists in all the competitions. No less than 14 of them were in the Premier League as United finished second behind Manchester City with 81 points, their highest since Fergie’s days, and he played a particularly decisive role from late November to early January when he scored seven times in a series of nine games.

That purple patch included a brace in a famous away win over Arsenal, who are right up there alongside their FA Cup final winner as one of their best moments for United.

But Lingard’s form mirrored United’s. He was poor like the rest of the squad at the start of 2018/19 and despite yet another purple patch in December, which included another goal against Arsenal and the Mourinho-era final goal against Liverpool, he has never regained its shape.

As a partial player in 2019/20, Lingard failed to score or assist a single Premier League game before the season break in March. With the arrival of Bruno Fernandes and to breathe new life into United in a new direction, the chances he had, largely from the bench, have completely dried up and he barely played during “Project Restart”. His appearance in the crucial final game of the season and the late strike that sealed the 2-0 victory was his first Premier League goal since December 2018.

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Lingard was at his best in the 2017/18 season | IAN KINGTON / Getty Images

A developing United side, sometimes carried by Fernandes but now also supported by a rekindled Paul Pogba and the dynamism of a young and hungry before three, have evolved without Lingard. His recent appearance against Watford in the FA Cup was his first since coming off the EFL Cup bench in September and he has not played in the Premier League at all in 2020/21.

This is where Lingard’s problem lies. He has played 40 or more games per season for United in four of the previous five years, scored semi-regular and often vital goals, and worked his way into the England squad to that best, but he didn’t has always never been more than a spin. team player.

Even at his best in 2017/18, Lingard has only started 20 Premier League games in 33 appearances. He has the ability to make an impact here and there, but successive United managers have concluded that he is not good enough to be a regular starter and this was only highlighted by the fact that his appearances have declined in the team as a whole. continued to improve.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is believed to have wanted to keep Lingard as an emergency reserve to ensure the squad is not too dispersed as United take part in three competitions this month and beyond. But that’s not the role of a player with a six-figure weekly salary or a 28-year-old who would expect to be involved regularly at this point in his career.

Jesse Lingard
At 28, Lingard cannot be satisfied with barely playing | James Williamson – AMA / Getty Images

He should now be in his prime, so it’s no surprise that Lingard wants to play, even if that means leaving his childhood club, initially on loan, but definitely before too long.

He won’t be remembered as an all-time great, but he’s still an individual who has played over 200 games for United and has been with the club most of his life. He was not made for the highest level but nevertheless deserves respect for his service and every United fan should wish Lingard good luck.

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