Jesse Lingard says he will never take being a Manchester United player for granted and revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson correctly predicted when he would break into the first team at Old Trafford. Lingard was somewhat of a late bloomer and established himself at United at the age of 23, but he believes his slightly delayed integration into the senior side was all part of the "pathway" his club set out for him.
Lingard is now an England international and FA Cup hero for United after scoring the winner in the final against Crystal Palace in May last year. The 24-year-old, who has struggled with injuries this season, puts his growing list of achievements down to application.
"United had a pathway for me," Lingard told the Sunday Times. "Sir Alex said, 'Don't worry, 22, 23, that's when you're going to stop growing and start playing' and it happened. I was never out with my friends. It's just hard work and dedication with me."
"I'll never take it for granted. There's nothing better than being at Manchester United. You work hard all week so when you get on the pitch, you've got to enjoy it. Football relieves all stress."
Lingard seems carefree and confident on the pitch, but self-belief is somewhat surprisingly an issue for the former Brighton and Birmingham City loanee. United's number 14 is constantly being told by his family to believe in his abilities but he has no problems with expressing himself on the pitch under Jose Mourinho, who he believes has brought the will to win back to training at Carrington.
"I should believe in myself more. I know I need to," Lingard added. "My family are always telling me, 'Believe in yourself, believe in your ability'. I don't have any problems in games — I just mean generally. He's (Mourinho) driven. Training has more edge to it. Everyone wants to win, which is what it should be like. When you lose a training game you're down all day getting wound up by the other team."
Lingard will hope to see more action than he did in Saturday's (11 February) win against Watford when United face Saint-Etienne in their Europa League round of 32 clash on Thursday (16 February). The winger was on the pitch for just one minute as the Red Devils secured a comfortable 2-0 win over the Hornets.