Lingard hits out at Man United – and former boss Solskjaer – on the eve of his Old Trafford return

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Jesse Lingard will walk out on Tuesday evening at Old Trafford as an opposition player — something he never thought he would do.

Lingard hopes to help an improving Nottingham Forest side beat Manchester United, Lingard’s only club until a summer switch to the City Ground. However the winger might try to downplay it, this cannot be a game like any other.

The attacker joined United aged seven and described it as a ‘dream come true’ when he scored his first goal for them in 2015. 

He clocked up 232 appearances, scoring 35 goals and winning 32 England caps. His final season, however, did not reflect what went before: only four starts.

Jesse Lingard (above) left Manchester United last summer at the end of his contract

The midfielder was frozen out by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Ralf Rangnick at Man United

The midfielder was frozen out by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Ralf Rangnick at Man United

Lingard had returned from a successful loan spell at West Ham expecting regular action, only to find himself on the outside under first Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, then Ralf Rangnick. ‘I don’t know why I wasn’t playing,’ says Lingard. 

‘I don’t know what the problem was, whether it was politics or whatever. I still haven’t got an answer. I’d rather that someone had told me, “This is why you’re not playing”, out of respect for me being there so long, but I never got that.

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‘It was false promises. I was training hard and I was sharp, I was ready.

‘So this is a chance to say my goodbyes because I never really got that. It will be an enjoyable occasion but we want to win the game. You can’t get caught up too much in it emotionally.’

The 30-year-old saw his hopes of a second World Cup dashed by injury and a dip in form

The 30-year-old saw his hopes of a second World Cup dashed by injury and a dip in form

Lingard is finding his stride at Forest. He scored his first goal for the club just before the World Cup, in the 2-0 win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup. He added another at Blackburn this week to set up a last-eight tie with Wolves. 

When the 30-year-old signed a one-year deal with Forest, he had hopes of playing in a second World Cup after helping England reach the semi-finals in 2018. 

That boat sailed quickly, however, as he struggled during those early weeks of the campaign with an achilles problem.

After a difficult opening spell at Nottingham Forest, Lingard is beginning to find his stride

After a difficult opening spell at Nottingham Forest, Lingard is beginning to find his stride

‘The break has been better for my achilles,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t sprint properly. People wanted me to hit the ground running like I did at West Ham, but it’s sometimes not like that. I was trying to get through games and not feeling 100 per cent. 

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‘Now I’ve recovered and come back sharp. I can’t wait for the season to start again. In the Tottenham and Palace games, that’s where you saw the real me, with the work ethic, pressing and tackling.’

Yet recovering from injury is nothing compared to the mental-health issues Lingard experienced leading into the first coronavirus lockdown in spring 2020.

Jesse Lingard has opened up on the reasons behind his departure from Manchester United

Jesse Lingard has opened up on the reasons behind his departure from Manchester United

Lingard has begun to hit form since making his summer move to join Forest as a free agent

Lingard has begun to hit form since making his summer move to join Forest as a free agent

‘Lockdown saved my career,’ he says. ‘It was a reset button for me. It was about having belief in myself again. I didn’t want to quit football, it was more about having a break. Then lockdown came and I started looking at old videos of my goals.

‘It was about finding that fire in my belly again. Now I’m happy and that is the most important thing in football. I feel free.’

Meanwhile, Erik ten Hag has backed Marcus Rashford to score 20 league goals this season, even if United sign a new striker in January. Ten Hag admits his side need more goals after scoring just 20 in the League so far. 

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United are stepping up their hunt for a signing to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, with PSV’s Cody Gakpo top of their list. But Ten Hag believes there are more goals in his current squad.

Attacker Lingard (left) enjoyed years of title success at boyhood club Manchester United with friend Marcus Rashford (right)

Attacker Lingard (left) enjoyed years of title success at boyhood club Manchester United with friend Marcus Rashford (right)

Man United manager Ten Hag believes Rashford is capable of scoring 20 goals this season

Man United manager Ten Hag believes Rashford is capable of scoring 20 goals this season

‘(Rashford) is capable of scoring 20 goals in the league — I’m convinced,’ he said. ‘He now has four (in the league) but he scored many other goals and he got three in the World Cup, so we know the potential. 

‘We have to score more. We have lost a striker, so we need to get one in.’

Dean Henderson is unable to play for Forest tonight under the terms of his loan deal, and Ten Hag believes the goalkeeper may have a future at United.

‘He is on loan for one season,’ said the Dutchman. ‘When that is coming to an end, we will take a decision. He is playing really well at Forest.’

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