Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard has opened up about his lowest moment at the club, and why it makes him enjoy each time he puts on a red shirt that much more, as well as his first call up with Paul Pogba
By his own admission, Lingard is one of the happiest players around. It is rare to see him without a smile plastered across his face, something which he concedes can irk some people.
However there is a reason for this attitude, because he has felt what it’s like to hit “rock bottom”. In an eye-opening piece for the Player’s Tribune, the Englishman spoke about growing up through the ranks at Carrington, and revealed the agony he went through right after his debut for the Red Devils.
Speaking on his first call up to the first team alongside the Frenchman, the player explained: “I’ll never forget the day Sir Alex called me and Pogba up to the bench, away at Newcastle.
“We were 18, 19. I just remember looking around the dressing room and seeing all the legends preparing, pulling their socks on. Scholes. Rooney. Rio. Giggsy.
“Me and Pogs take our spot on the bench, and you know, we were used to playing in reserve games in front of 200 people. This is 50,000. I remember looking up at that massive glass stand at the one end, and it was shaking. And I looked over at Pogs like, Oh my gosh, if the gaffer actually puts me in, I might wet meself.
“Lucky for me, we stayed on the bench that day. But that was such a big moment for me. Just to be thrown into the fire like that, and to get to wear the shirt for Sir Alex, it was massive for my belief.
However, when that full debut came to pass, it did not go to script: “When I finally got my debut in a United shirt against Swansea back in 2014, that was supposed to be the payoff for all the grafting, all the pain, all the years away from home.
“My whole family was in the stands at Old Trafford. I was 22 years old, just like Sir Alex predicted. This was it. We’d made it.
“Then I did my knee after 20 minutes. Heard it pop, and I knew right away. I remember seeing my brother after the match, and he had tears in his eyes. Because he knew what it meant. It wasn’t just the injury. It was the timing. It was everything.
“I was on the shelf for about 6 months. Couldn’t train. Couldn’t walk. Couldn’t do anything. Just laying on the sofa seeing United on Match of the Day, gutted. It was probably the lowest point of my life. I was genuinely depressed. That was rock bottom, really. “
After a slew of loan spells early in his career, Lingard has gone on to make 154 appearances for the Red Devils, but in this moment just getting a second cap was uncertain.
But it was also a turning point, as he continued: “I was literally picking my hair out I was so frustrated. But that’s also when I had time to think about my life, and I realized that all of this can go away so quickly, you know what I mean? Even if you work hard, and you have the talent, nothing is guaranteed.
“It took me hitting rock bottom to really appreciate the opportunity we all have every time we pull on that United shirt. It can all go away in an instant.
“It was a full 14 months before I had the chance to put on the United shirt again. I haven’t stopped smiling since. If you don’t like it, sorry. I’m not gonna change.”