Jesse Lingard recalls his 'massive' meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd, aged 16

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It may have taken him 18 years, but Jesse Lingard is finally living his dream of playing for Manchester United's first team week in week out.

Having joined the club's academy at the age of seven, Lingard progressed through the age groups - even winning the 2010/11 FA Youth Cup - to eventually sign a professional contract in 2011. 

Loans spells at Leicester City, Birmingham City, Brighton and Derby County followed from 2012 to 2015 before Louis van Gaal decided it was time for the Englishman to make his mark.

Lingard featured heavily throughout the 2015/16 season and scored a stunning winner against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final.

The 26-year-old quickly became a player for the big occasions as he also scored the opener in the 2016/17 Community Shield and United's second in the EFL Cup win over Southampton.

That season ended with Lingard signing a lucrative four-year contract with United with an option to another year, and since then he's become an important player for the club.

And yet it could have been so different if it wasn't for a certain Sir Alex Ferguson.

Lingard was very small for his age throughout his teenage years and there were fears that he wouldn't make it when his teammates all started signing professional contracts.

That was until Fergie arranged a meeting with Lingard and his family to say that he believed in him and that it would take him a bit longer than others to be ready for first-team action.

Manchester United's Jesse Lingard (R)

Writing for The Player Tribune, Lingard has recalled that meeting with United's legendary manager and the impact it made.

"We won a lot of matches back then and I was playing well - but I still wasn't growing," he explained. "When I turned 16 I 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.

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"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."

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