Jesse Lingard has been one of the brightest stars to have emerged from Manchester United‘s famous youth academy in the last decade.
The Englishman is currently an important first-team player for the Mancunian giants, and was also a crucial part of the English national team that impressed one and all during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Lingard joined the Red Devils’ youth academy at the age of seven, and progressed through the age groups before finally signing his first professional contract in 2011.
The forward was sent out on numerous loan spells at clubs like Leicester City, Birmingham City, Brighton, and Derby County between 2012 and 2015, before finally receiving a steady first-team spell under Louis van Gaal.
However, the 26-year-old might very well have left Manchester United altogether at the age of 16, had it not been for a meeting with the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.
Writing for The Player Tribune, Lingard has shed light on how one crucial moment altered the very path of his career, as he reveals: “We won a lot of matches back then and I was playing well – but I still wasn’t growing.
“When I turned 16, I had seen a lot my teammates get pro contracts, but I wasn’t offered one. I was gutted. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for Sir Alex. If it weren’t for the main man. One day, he had a meeting with me and my family.
“He sat us down in his office and he said, ‘It’s going to take a while for you, Jesse. We believe in you. But you’re going to have to be patient. You’re not going to be ready for the first team until you’re 22 or 23.’ I can’t even tell you how massive that was for me and my family.
“You’d think I’d be disappointed, but when an absolute legend like Sir Alex says they believe in you, that means everything. He didn’t have to meet with us, and he didn’t have to say that to me, but that’s why he’s Sir Alex, and that’s why Man United is Man United.”