Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford took to Instagram this week and put up cryptic posts reading “0.012%”. It turns out this was in reference to the percentage of players from academies who make as professionals in the Premier League.
Between them, they’ve made over 200 league appearances for United, over 300 in all competitions, but have come in for widespread criticism from the fan base recently.
It kicked off last week after both players posted up tributes on the anniversary of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack. Looking at the responses to Rashford, there was a stream of fans using him paying respect to the people who died in his city as an opportunity to tell the player he wasn’t good enough and that he should leave the club.
Lingard also received stick for his post too but his was more justified. Someone in his camp thought it was a good idea to put the branding for his trademarked logo, JLingz, on to his picture. It was a crass and tacky move and the post was rightly deleted.
Days later, the pair were asked to work as pundits for the charity game between United and Bayern Munich’s legends as part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the Treble win.
Dressed in grey suits, with Lingard sporting a pair of gold glasses, the two lads who had grown up supporting the club descended on Old Trafford to watch their heroes play.
“It was ingrained in us from a young age to really know the history of Man United, the trophies that have been won and especially the Treble,” Lingard said ahead of the game. “Coming through the ranks, we’ve always been familiar with the history of the club.”
Rashford shared the same sentiment, claiming that he felt a part of the club’s great history.
“Of course, it is part of growing up at a club like United,” he said. “They make sure that you understand the history of the club and you feel part of it, even though you weren’t there. Moments like what happened in 99 last a lifetime.”
Yet the reaction to their attire brought about further irritation from some sections of the support.
“JESUS F**KING CHRIST!” tweeted one United fan, with a picture of Lingard accompanying it. Another responded with an image of the pair, saying “Look at the absolute state of these two. Lingard needs to f**k off. Who does he think he is with them glasses on the melt. And what the f**k is suit and trainers about.” There were hundreds more like that too.
Who knew that suits, trainers and glasses could bring about so much rage? But fans got on their case all day, leading to those aforementioned Instagram posts.
Now it’s understandable that after a massively disappointing season that United fans are annoyed.
Both players, particularly Lingard, had less than memorable campaigns, although Rashford did score and assist more goals this year than in any other.
Lingard acts like a bit of a prat on social media, posting up silly videos of him messing around and generally behaving like a teenager. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But, it certainly doesn’t warrant the vitriol that comes his way.
Writing for The Players Tribune last season, Lingard discussed the impact his lengthy injury after first making it into the first team had on him.
“It was a full 14 months before I had the chance to put on the United shirt again. I haven’t stopped smiling since,” he said. “If you don’t like it, sorry. I’m not gonna change.”
There is the suggestion that because Lingard comes across as incredibly immature he somehow doesn’t take his job seriously or care enough about United. This is the lad that has pictures of himself in United shirts from when he was so young he could barely walk.
It’s the same boy who travelled down to Wembley with his family when he was six to watch United lift the FA Cup on the way to winning the Treble in 1999. The same player who, as a teenager, was put on the bench for the first time for a trip to Newcastle, and was so excited he claimed he might “wet myself” if he was brought on.
“It’s funny, certain people will criticise me now but I’ll never stop being myself,” he said. “I’ll never stop enjoying my football. I’ll never take the smile off my face when I step over the line because I know what it means to wear this shirt. I know how lucky I am to do what I do for a living and to represent this badge, and I’m never gonna stop enjoying it for a minute.”
Rashford and Lingard have been at the club since they were six, and while some fans will argue they’re not good enough to play for United, it’s silly to claim they aren’t bothered, that they don’t try when they play, or that they’re more concerned with social media.
If they’re not good enough, then it’s up to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get rid, but they can’t be held accountable for wanting to stay, live their lives, and, in the case of Lingard at least, branch out in other areas, like his clothing line.
He’s been compared to Tom Cleverley, who set up his brand TC23 after making just five league appearances for the club. But Lingard has scored crucial goals to help the team win two of the three trophies United have lifted since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and scored for England at the World Cup.
He’s not just a kid who had achieved nothing, as Cleverley was.
Likewise, Rashford has scored several goals against Liverpool, City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and PSG, which gave him hero status at the time, but that all seems to be quickly forgotten.