Jesse Lingard says it feels “good to actually be back and feel myself again” as the Manchester United attacking midfielder bids to return to his best.
A key member of the England squad that reached last year’s World Cup semi-finals in Russia, the 26-year-old did not make Gareth Southgate’s last two squads due to a drop off in form and game time.
But Lingard has regained his form and place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side at a key part of the season.
Fresh from shining in the defeat of Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham – his first Premier League start in two months – he was part of the thrilling United attack that ran amok in Saturday’s shock 2-1 triumph at Manchester City.
Put to Lingard things appear to be going in the right direction, he told the PA news agency: “Yeah, 100 per cent.
“Obviously form dips and you go through highs and lows, but I feel like I am on the right path at the moment.
“I’m training well, I’m doing the right things and the manager is happy, which is the most important thing.
“I’m really confident (about the rest of the season). On the back of those two wins, City and Spurs, the confidence is there.
“Now it’s about mindset and mentality to just keep going.”
Lingard is loving his football but playing for one of the world’s biggest clubs can bring crushing pressure.
Solskjaer suggested over the weekend that off-field issues had impacted the form of a player he reprimanded over the summer for his use of social media, while the 26-year-old recently admitted he does not read anything online anymore given the vitriol out there.
“I think it might have been mentality with certain people,” Lingard said of the abuse dished out to footballers on social media.
“It can obviously affect certain people, but for us as footballers obviously we’re going to see it and we go through it, but we stay strong, we try and block it out.
“We just want to enjoy football and that’s it.
“Life’s ups and downs, people are going to hate you, people are going to love you and that’s how it is.”
By focusing on himself rather than the background noise, Lingard is benefiting from returning to the core features that helped transform him from perennial loanee to big-game player for club and country.
“I think it’s doing the right things,” he said. “Sometimes you have to go back to basics and start afresh, which I did.
“But at the moment, right now I feel good, feel sharp and can’t wait for the next game.”
United have back-to-back matches against AZ Alkmaar and Everton coming up this week at Old Trafford, where Southgate – someone who knows Lingard better than most – is a regular presence in the directors’ box.
The England manager worked with him closely at Under-21 level and gave the attacking midfielder his senior debut in his first match in charge.
And while Southgate has left Lingard out of recent squads, his upturn in United form will not go unnoticed.
“If you do well for Man United you know you get picked for England,” Lingard said, speaking as part of the Coca-Cola #WhereEveryonePlays campaign.
“I spoke to Gareth over the last few months and he knows what kind of player I am.
“It does feel good to actually be back and feel myself again.
“Obviously he knows me as a player from the 21s and he knows how I handle certain situations. For me now it’s confidence and keeping the momentum, kicking on.”
Lingard is pushing to be involved at Euro 2020 next summer, when friend and team-mate Marcus Rashford is almost certain to be part of the squad.
“I’ve obviously known Marcus from a young age and he’s very humble,” Lingard said of the in-form forward. “He does the right things, works hard on the training pitch and it shows in games.
“So for him now it’s just about consistency and keeping going and keeping that momentum.”
Asked just how good Rashford is, Lingard said: “The world’s his oyster.
“He’s only 22 and he’s still learning but his hunger and ambition for the game is unbelievable.”
Rashford was named United’s player of the month for November, having seen fellow academy graduate Scott McTominay win the previous two awards.
The homegrown midfielder’s rise shows no signs of abating and it appears the squad love him as much as the fans.
“I’ve known Scott’s ability from young, growing up with him,” Lingard said.
“When it was his time to shine, he rose to the occasion and he’s been a real rock for us in midfield.
“I feel secure, we all feel secure as a team, when we’re pressing because you know you’ve got Scott behind.”
:: Jesse Lingard surprised StreetGames players in the Coca-Cola Christmas truck in Manchester as part of the Coca-Cola #WhereEveryonePlays campaign.’