By Nathan Brown

Manchester United has long possessed players with larger than life characters amongst their expensively assembled squads; Jesse Ellis Lingard is no different.

A player known for his social media presence, his unerring ability to dance impressively wherever possible, and a passion for football and the serotonin that winning can give, Jesse is a prime target for the pessimistic, the old schoolers and the rest. His form has dropped sharply since the turn of 2019, with the goals and the assists drying up like a desert riverbed, which has meant that online hatred, vitriol and unfiltered criticisms have followed aplenty. Some might claim justifiably, but others would have a mind to disagree.

Lingard is a rare breed of attacking midfielder, a clever and ingenious talent, who roams freely in the pockets between the opposition midfield and defence. The modern game is awash with the requirements for its attacking players to press furiously, to harry defenders and be tactically and spatially intelligent. Jesse has always had those abilities in abundance, and he's thus proven throughout his career to date that he's a capable asset. He's been trusted by three previous United managers, heralded by another, and adored by the England manager who gave him his international debut.

Lingard scored a brilliant extra-time volley against Crystal Palace to win the FA Cup for Manchester United in 2016.

The off-field interests, the JLingz brand and his close relationship with fellow red Marcus Rashford have all swiftly become sticks to beat him with, yet the bottom line for himself is that football is all he has ever known and all he has ever truly been focused on. His form may have dropped in the last year, but this has coincided with being part of a United side that has had its own issues with maintaining form, as well as being asked to fulfil a number of different roles while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sought to discover his strongest 11.

These are perhaps out of Lingard's control, as are the family issues that have weighed heavily on the player in the last 12 months or so. His mother has been unwell, leaving him to take the heavy responsibility of looking after his younger siblings. Likewise, the mental health of players can often be overlooked especially with the ease in which a barrage of online abuse can be thrown at them with the click of a button.

Jesse might be a confident man on the exterior, he's a bubbly character who appears to have a fierce zest for life and the wonders of the world. But combine all these factors into one, and it's a recipe for a difficult and testing period for a player who has seen his family struggle and his club career and performances stall, not to mention his international career.

We as a culture have become far too focused on tearing a player apart because they’re outgoing and have interests outside of a game that gives them a millionaire’s salary, and Lingard has become a victim of this ever-developing trend. He’s a player who has performed at the highest level for club and country, scored in an FA Cup Final, scored at a World Cup for England, and yet, has been vilified by those who misunderstand the implications of issues outside of his control.

The coronavirus break may well do him some good, a much-needed rest from the heightened pressure and gaze of the game that appears to be weighing so heavily upon his 27-year-old shoulders. He may now have the time to piece his puzzle back together.