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‘I resorted to drinking to ease the pain’ – Lingard opens up on mental health struggles

The winger confessed that he lost his confidence after struggling for minutes at Old Trafford, but has come back a different person

Manchester United star Jesse Lingard admits that he hit a low point while frozen out of the Reds first team, before turning his fortunes around during his loan spell with West Ham. 

The England winger made an immediate impact in east London, scoring nine goals and contributing a further five assists in 16 games after joining in January. 

It was a welcome return to form for Lingard, who had struggled mentally during his extended spell without football at Old Trafford. 

What was said? 

“We had times during the bad periods when I started to resort to drinking at night and that wasn’t me,” he told the Daily Mail.

“My dad’s never been a big drinker. My mum’s never been a big drinker. I was bottling up so much in my head that I had resorted to drinking to try to ease the pain.

“[Lingard’s brother] Louie was looking at me and thinking, ‘That’s not my brother’. I’ve never been a big drinker, but I was resorting to that for my own peace. When I finally opened up and started speaking to family, it really helped. I owe it to them. 

“My confidence was shot. You can be that happy-go-lucky guy, bouncing around the training ground, but deep down you’re wearing that smile as a mask.

“I wasn’t playing so I was down. Luckily I had Louie sending me videos from my Under 21 days for United and England. He was trying to make me realise what a good player I’d been.

“‘Watch this! Watch this!’ So I did and thought, ‘You know what? I can’t throw this away’. It gave me confidence, and that first lockdown gave me a chance to re-evaluate what I wanted in life.”

Louie added: “I’ve watched this kid all my life. There were matches where I had to leave because I knew he wasn’t right and I felt helpless. You know when you see a boxer on his last legs, ready to be knocked out? That’s what I was seeing and at the same time, the vultures came for him. 

“They were picking away. There was a lot of online abuse. I don’t look at Jesse as someone to analyse, or someone who needs a new contract. I’m his big brother. I needed to make sure this kid could go on and live his life. He didn’t want to go fill up his car with petrol as he didn’t want to go out. I felt powerless.”

Back to West Ham? 

Lingard missed out on United’s Premier League opener against Leeds United after testing positive for Covid, but is hoping to return to first-team action in the near-future once given the all-clear. 

He has also been linked to a permanent move to West Ham, a prospect which he and Louie refuse to rule out. 

“It worked out perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better loan,” he said of his time at the club. “I’ll always support West Ham. They’ll stay in my heart and I’ll retain that bond with them.

When asked about the chance of a Hammers return, Louie replied: “We’ve not heard anything. We’re just sitting tight. Making a rash decision right now would be very silly.

Lingard agrees: “One hundred per cent. I’m not going to rush into anything. What comes will come. I feel like I’m in the driving seat. I’m happy.”

Further reading 

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