I still don’t know why I was frozen out at Manchester United

Those promises came from Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who had given Lingard assurances of regular football when he returned from his successful loan spell at West Ham.

Nevertheless, Solskjær was sacked in November 2021, and the subsequent appointment of Ralf Rangnick as interim manager ensured that Lingard made just two league starts in his final season.

He was also denied a bye in United’s final home game of the season against Brentford.

“I had to paint it out last year because I knew I wanted to be free [transfer],” he says.

“I’m not really the type to sulk, around the dressing room I’m always the bubbly character with good vibes. I was doing my training and my work, so here and there I would come and try to do my best. The last year was difficult.”

“People don’t know what goes on behind closed doors”

While being frozen out by his hometown club was painful, it came secondary to the off-field issues that made him consider taking a break from football.

His mother, Kirsty, was admitted to a London hospital in 2019 due to her battle with depression, and Lingard admits his own mental health suffered, weighed down by pressure, fatigue and fear of what would happen next.

He spoke eloquently about these issues in a Channel 4 documentary ‘Untold – The Jesse Lingard Story’, which shows another side to the vivacious extrovert known to millions on social media as JLingz.

“The documentary helped a lot because a lot of people don’t know what goes on behind closed doors,” he says.

“They only see Lingard on the pitch, instead of Jesse off the pitch. I just wanted to give fans and viewers an insight into who I am: the family man, the father and not just the footballer.

“When I was going through bad periods in my life trying to play football, I didn’t tell anyone about what was going on at home. I bottled things up.

“We are not robots, we have feelings and emotions. Being abused 24/7 can affect anyone. If you did a 9-5 job and were constantly abused, you don’t want to work there anymore.

“Sometimes it can take its toll and it’s too much to handle.”

“Lockdown saved my career”

Lingard reflects on a time shortly before the first Covid lockdown in March 2020 when he rediscovered the spark.

His elder brother, Louie, gave him a stack of old DVDs of his best performances for United and England and it was a lightbulb moment.

“I would say the lockdown saved my career. It was a terrible time for everyone, but it was a reset button for me, he says.

“It was a chance to see there was still a player in there. It was about getting it out of me and having that confidence and belief in myself.

“It was about finding the hunger and the fire in my belly again.”

Almost three years on, Lingard says he is now in his “happy place”.

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