“I didn’t get my chance that I was waiting on.”
Jesse Lingard believes he was not given a chance to demonstrate his post-lockdown fitness under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United last season.
Lingard was a peripheral figure during the 2019/20 campaign, starting just nine league games, all of which came prior to the coronavirus-enforced break in March.
Lingard says he worked hard on his fitness during last season’s hiatus and while he was not playing regularly under Solskjaer.
Lingard and Solskjaer.
The 28-year-old failed to force his way into the Norwegian’s plans this term before being loaned to West Ham in January, scoring twice for the Hammers in a superb debut display against Aston Villa.
“At this age, it’s all about regular football and showing people what you can do,” Lingard told BT Sport via the Daily Mail ahead of West Ham’s clash with Sheffield United on Monday evening.
“First and foremost I’m here to play, win and help the team, so hopefully I can do that and we’ll see where we’re at come the end of the season. But it’s about playing with a smile on my face and enjoying my football and getting back to the old Jesse.
“Football is a lot of ups and downs, people go through different stages and it’s not just a straight road to the top. There are a lot of setbacks which most people don’t see and a lot of things that go on behind closed doors.”
Lingard admitted that he found himself watching old videos of himself during the first lockdown as he looked to inspire himself ahead of football’s return under Project Restart in June.
However, despite returning to the United squad as one of the ‘strongest and fittest’ players’, Lingard did not see his playing time increase with his only starts coming in the FA Cup and Europa League.
“During the lockdown, I recapped my best moments playing football – the season under Jose [Mourinho] where I scored all of those goals and went to the World Cup and the season when Ole came in and I started well,” added Lingard.
“So I started recapping a lot of games to see where I did well, getting that fire in my belly and drive again to go and kick on because it would have been easy for me to fall off and take the easy option out.
“But a person like me who’s been through a lot and knows the game, I can’t just give it up like and I’ll always go out with a fight.
“I came back one of the strongest and fittest (in the Man United squad) after the lockdown and I didn’t get my chance that I was waiting on but the whole time I was there and not playing I was doing extra training and keeping on top of my fitness for when the time was right.
“So for me, it’s about working hard and staying dedicated and I went back to basics.”