Jesse Lingard was stood on the periphery of Manchester United’s dramatic rise into the Premier League’s top four over the second half of the season.
It has been a tough campaign for the 27-year-old, who has had to balance off-field issues with trying to win his place back in a flourishing team.
Lingard was limited to just nine Premier League starts all season but did come off the bench to score United’s second goal in the win at Leicester that secured Champions League football last weekend.
Jesse Lingard capped a frustrating season for Manchester United with a goal at Leicester
Lingard spoke to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about his off-field troubles back in December
It was an emotional end to what has been a miserable season. In an interview with Sportsmail in December, Lingard revealed that he was caring for his younger brother Jasper and sister Daisy-Boo when his mother Kirsty became unwell.
The overwhelming responsibility and stress took their toll and Lingard finally knocked on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s door to let him in on his problems.
‘I wasn’t performing and he was on me all the time. He wanted more from me,’ Lingard said.
‘So I felt it was best to get everything off my chest and tell him why my head wasn’t right. So I knocked on his door.
‘I am normally quite bubbly and want to put smiles on people’s faces but people have seen the change in my ways.
Lingard cared for his brother Jasper and sister Daisy-Boo when his mum Kirsty became unwell
His form for United suffered as a result of the stress and Lingard became a fringe player
‘I have been down and glum; just worrying. I felt like everybody just passed all the stuff to me and it weighed on my shoulders. It was like, “Here you go Jesse, you deal with this on your own”.
‘My mum has had some things for years but never really got help. Now she is. So I have been taking care of my brother and sister. They are with me. It has been tough to see my loved ones struggling and then I have to come to work and try to do my job.’
Lingard has still not started a Premier League game for the Red Devils since New Year’s Day but he will be hoping his goal at Leicester can be the start of a promising future.
United pick up their halted Europa League campaign on August 5 against LASK but, with one foot already in the quarter-finals, Lingard will be hoping he can make an impact deep into the competition.
Lingard won his place back in December and played in the brilliant victory at Manchester City
The arrival of Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood’s emergence saw him left on the bench
After scoring at Leicester, Lingard took to Instagram to reveal he was ‘lost as a player and person’ during this season.
‘I never wanted to give up,’ the 27-year-old posted. ‘I knew who I really was on and off the pitch.
‘I knew having been there before I could get there again. It meant working harder than I’d ever done before and trusting in those around me that they knew how to best help me achieve that.
‘I know the fans have been frustrated but in all this time my love for this club and everyone connected to it has never left me. This team, this club is my family and I will continue to keep working harder than ever to help this team achieve its goals.’
Lingard has chalked up three goals and two assists in 38 appearances so far this season. That is compared to five goals and four assists in 36 appearances in 2018-19 and 13 goals and seven assists in 48 appearances in 2017-18.
Lingard was crucial for England at the 2018 World Cup but lost his place in the national squad
There has been clear regression for the midfielder in recent seasons amid his off-field difficulties and it remains to be seen if Solskjaer will persist with Lingard when his side are striving to catch Liverpool and Manchester City.
Despite his unwavering affection for United, a report in The Times on Wednesday suggests Lingard could be leaving the club this summer.
The England international, who has also lost his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad this season after being key in the run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, only has one year left on his £100,000-a-week deal.
United do have the option to extend his contract by another 12 months next season but it is claimed the academy product is expected to depart.
There is said to be concrete interest in him from clubs across Europe, including Serie A side Roma and Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany. Newcastle are also believed to be keen.
Lingard came off the bench and robbed Kasper Schmeichel of the ball before scoring late on
Lingard posted an emotional message on Instagram on Tuesday, saying this season ‘has been difficult for so many reasons’
The January arrival of Bruno Fernandes, who has been an overwhelming success at United so far, and the emergence of Mason Greenwood have nudged him even further down the pecking order.
United are also hoping to buy Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish this summer, two more attacking players which would hint at Lingard’s exit.
Given he has rarely featured for Solskjaer since Christmas, now could be the time for Lingard to leave and rejuvenate his career elsewhere.
He could easily become the star man at a team like Newcastle, rather than a fringe player at United, and work his way back into contention for Southgate at Euro 2021.
Lingard is at a decisive crossroads. The next few months are pivotal to how the rest of his career will play out.