Belfast Telegraph

Jesse Lingard determined to confound the doubters

Jesse Lingard is determined to confound the doubters and repay Manchester United's faith, especially as he feared his Old Trafford dream might have been over a few years ago.

Patience has been a key attribute for the homegrown player, with the late bloomer only making a first-team impact following several loan spells.

Lingard has relished taking his chance at United and is now not only a fully established part of the squad but a big-game player, scoring in the recent FA Cup, EFL Cup and Community Shield triumphs.

Key to Jose Mourinho's plans, in April the 24-year-old was rewarded with a new and improved deal running until at least 2021 - although the reveal of reported £100,000-a-week wages was met with shock by some outsiders.

Onlookers have also taken umbrage at some of Lingard's social media activity, but that background noise only fuels a player whose route to the top has been far from straightforward.

"I think people can be quick to judge," the England international told Press Association Sport. "The people that know me, they know what I am like.

"But obviously when it comes to training and games, that's the professional environment.

"You've got to do the job on the pitch. First and foremost I put in 100 per cent and I don't think anyone can really complain after that.

"I was coming down to my last year and it was good that Manchester United put that trust in me. Hopefully I can repay them now."

Not so long ago Lingard would have found it hard to imagine being in such a position.

Handed his debut aged 21 in Louis van Gaal's first match as United boss in August 2014, a serious knee injury sidelined him for a large chunk of a season that ended with him going on loan to Derby.

Asked if there was a point he feared it might not ever happen for him at United, Lingard said: "I think when I got injured in the season under Van Gaal and went on loan.

"I knew the season (after) I had to kick on and do well.

"You know, even then it took me until the end of October to play my first game when I came on against Everton at half-time.

"I've not looked back since. I played pretty much every game that season and played most games last season as well.

"To be fair, I've had two seasons now in the Premier League. I am getting that experience every season."

Lingard's performances mean he is also gaining experience at an international level.

A shining light at an otherwise disappointing Under-21 European Championship for England in 2015, he stepped up with his former Young Lions boss last October.

Gareth Southgate clearly rates Lingard as much as he trusts him, handing the winger his senior debut against Malta - the then-interim manager's first match in charge.

"I've obviously known Gareth at Under-21 level," Lingard said.

"He is a great manager to work under, he lets you have that freedom when you're playing on the field, which is good for the forwards especially.

"We created that bond at Under-21 level and obviously he's taken it to the first-team level as well."

Lingard now has four caps and a place at next summer's World Cup in his cross hairs.

"I think that's the main aim," he said. "First and foremost you've got to concentrate on Manchester United and getting the job done here.

"If you have a good season, then you get picked for the World Cup.

"At the moment I am concentrating on playing as many games as I can and doing well for the club, and then we'll see what happens at the end of the season."

The winger would almost certainly be joined in Russia by his friend and team-mate Marcus Rashford, whose own remarkable rise continues apace.

"You can see already (how special he is)," Lingard said. "The age he is at the moment and the talent he's got.

"It is going to be frightening what he is going to be like in two or three years' time.

"I can't wait to see that blossom."

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