RR: There’s a host of young players coming through the ranks at United, so does that make you a senior player now?
Ha, ha — yeah, you could say that! Louis Van Gaal has a philosophy of bringing the young ones through and the people who have got their chance at the moment have taken that chance and done well in the team. With United, history shows that they want to bring young players through and I think that’s what we’re doing in this era.
RR: What’s it like trying to make an impression? How difficult is it to make the transition?
It’s always hard, especially when a new manager comes in. You’re constantly trying to impress the coaches, though, trying to get that first team place.
RR: And you’ve had three managers now…
Yeah, three and I’m only 23, which is unusual.
RR: You’ve also had four loan spells too?
Yeah, at Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby. I didn’t play much at Leicester, but at Birmingham I played every game I could and scored on my debut. Then at Brighton, I played every game there too so I got that consistency in my game that you need, and ready to play at United.
RR: Is it weird thinking you’re a United player, but you’re at another club?
Yes, it’s weird. But you know when you’re on loan you are with that club and helping that club, fighting every week for three points. You can’t be slack with anything you do. You have to help that team do well, and they’ll be reporting back, too.
RR: Is it the same lads at Leicester there now as when you were there?
Yeah, the majority of them – Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Jamie Vardy…
RR: Are you still in touch with them?
Yeah, some of them every now and again — they’re a good bunch of lads.
RR: Was Danny Drinkwater here when you were?
Yes, he was a year above or two years above me. I think he was a late developer but I’m glad he’s doing well.
RR: Now you’re back here, and in the first team squad… do you feel established in the team?
I’ve played around 21 first team games now, but there’s a long way to go yet and we’ve got guys coming back from injury. You’re just always trying to make an impression on the manager for that place.
RR: You touched on the history of the club earlier, you know with the Busby Babes and Class of ’92… Do you feel like something exciting is happening here at the moment?
Definitely. The emergence of a lot of youngsters has brought back the years when guys like Scholes, Butt, Neville and Beckham were coming through the ranks. It’s good to mix youth players with the older pros and having that experience in there as well.
RR: Who do you think will be the next ones to come through the ranks?
There are loads – Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Joe Riley and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, to name a few.
RR: Oh yeah! He’s 18 and played centre half against Watford’s Troy Deeney the other night…
Yeah, he held his own extremely well. I’ve not played with him before, apart from in training.
RR: You wonder whether some of the established names are going to get back in the side when they come back from injury when you see how well some of the young lads are playing.
Well, I’m sure it’s great for the manager because he’ll have lots of choice — it’s all healthy competition.
RR: Louis has brought several players through who have turned out to be world class during his time at various clubs, including Bastien Schweinsteiger and Andres Iniesta – how does it feel to come through under him?
It’s great. Louis’s given me a great opportunity and I can’t thank him enough. I was hoping to get my chance under David Moyes, but obviously that didn’t come around. I’ve had to be patient and wait for that chance, but Van Gaal has seen the talent and is putting it into good use.
RR: What’s LvG like? In private, can he be quite funny?
Yes, he is! He likes a bit of banter, to be fair. He is laid back, but when it comes to football he’s very focused and he wants you to have your head screwed on and get into the game. He’s also a really honest bloke. He’ll definitely tell you if you’re doing badly, or doing something good. He tells the press straight, too.
RR: Is he out there training with the lads?
He comes out all the time, every day, watching us.
RR: The Arsenal game was a cracker. Do you really notice the fans getting behind you in a match like that?
You do hear them, especially when it’s a dead ball situation. Or, when you’re attacking. We started that week off well, with the win at Shrewsbury, and beating Midtylland. You know, the fans were really up for it against Arsenal and it was a massive three points for us.
RR: There have been some ups and downs this season, but do we just need to keep going?
Yeah. As long as we can reach some consistency, who knows what can happen this season.
RR: What parts of your game to you need to improve on? And what’s Louis Van Gall improved for you?
I think Louis has improved my game understanding and game knowledge, seeing the bigger picture. We do a lot of switching of play, and it’s that understanding that has improved. He likes quick, direct wingers, but does like to instill different features in your game.
RR: You were born in Warrington – but how did you get a name like that?
You know what… I think it was my great, great, great grandma. Her name was Jesse Ellis, so I’m Jesse Ellis Lingard. A lot of people think I must be Norwegian, or Scandinavian, especially after Anders Lindergaard being here and my name sounding a bit like his.
RR: Did you have to work hard at football when you were a kid, or did it just all come naturally?
I think with most footballers, it’s natural. You start off young, at school and when you get home you just want to play. When you come to United, they teach you some skills when you’re starting off. But most of it is just a natural thing.
RR: Have you thought about what you were going to do if you didn’t make it as a footballer?
Not really… As long as I got my grades at school, that was important, and hopefully everything would look after itself after that.
RR: Who have been the most influential players?
Since I’ve got in the team, the likes of Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, the English pros around the place. They give me guidance. And Ryan Giggs as well. He’s done it at United, and is helping me any way he can.
RR: Do you see yourself as a winger, Jesse?
I like playing at Number 10, but everyone else does, too. If you play on the wing, it’s always easy to come inside as well. I’m not an out and out winger.
RR: Who are the leaders in the dressing room?
Well, obviously Wazza’s the captain. Carrick is vice captain, and Chris Smalling too. They’re the three captains. After that, it’s Juan Mata.
RR: Have you got one eye on the European Championships at the moment?
It’s always in the back of my mind. But I’ve got to concentrate on Man United and keep doing well. Anything else that happens is a bonus.
RR: Do you have any superstitions, or rituals?
No but some players do — Juan Mata puts his left boot on first and steps onto the pitch with his left foot.
RR: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked to autograph?
Someone’s forehead! You get some weird requests – phone cases and plastercasts, and so on.
RR: What’s your goal celebration all about!
Ha, it’s a dance called The Dab that’s trending at the moment. There’s a few sportspeople doing it from American football to basketball!
RR: So, you’re a bit of a mover on the dance floor?
Yeah, yeah…well, a little bit. I won’t be doing a ‘robot’ like Peter Crouch, though!
RR: You’ve not got a song yet. Any suggestions?
Ha ha… I need to score in the derby, then I’ll be a hero.