Jesse Lingard has now become a regular in the England squad under new boss Gareth Southgate, who rates him highly.
But the Englishman still remains unable to secure his place fully in Manchester United despite scoring the spectacular winner in last season’s FA Cup Final and another vital goal in League Cup final triumph last month.
Surprisingly, the 24-year-old has had only 10 starts in Premier League for United this term, and talks on a new contract at the club he joined as an academy boy are yet to be resolved.
Still, Lingard says his heart is with United. Of course, it is. But it’s also true, his head will be telling him that he has to grab more game time to fulfill the obvious potential.
Does he stay or does he go? Does he continue the fight to get into Manchester United squad where the competition for places has become fierce against Henrikh Mikihtaryan, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford among others? Or does he take a step down somewhere else where he can be at the heart of the team?
“No, I haven’t signed a new contract,” says Lingard, a fighting and sparky character who has fitted in swiftly to the England camp.
“It’s still ongoing talks at the moment. I enjoy playing for Manchester United, and my heart is at Manchester United. You always want to play football, to be in the team, and it’s always a battle at United. I think that’s good for the group, though. It’s always good to have great players around you.
“You always have to battle for your place and it makes you more hungry to get on the training pitch. And you know when you have your chance, you have to take it.”
The exciting winger may not be a peripheral figure in Mourinho’s squad, but neither is he a certain first-team player. Talks over a new contract started several months ago, and it’s easy to sympathize with a footballer in Lingard’s situation, not least when his passion for Manchester United is so evident.