Lingard: 'I won't waste chance of glory'
Midfielder says United young guns 'fearless' in pursuit of elusive Cup
Reactions are often telling in football. When Marcus Rashford was denied a strong penalty appeal after being barged to the ground by Martin Demichelis in the Manchester derby last month, the teenager was mobbed by a posse of experienced City players eager to attract attention from the foul by accusing him of diving.
While a group of senior Manchester United players seemed more interested in protesting to referee Michael Oliver, it was left to Jesse Lingard to rush to the defence of his fellow academy graduate.
Lingard's instinct was not to decry the injustice of the decision but to race 20 yards to protect a player still making his first steps in the first team by shoving Fernandinho out of the way as the City midfielder, Demichelis, Eliaquim Mangala and others tried to rough up Rashford. Lingard chuckles when the incident is raised. "Things like that? You can't be getting pushed around by three City guys, so someone had to step in," the United winger said.
"On the pitch, you are never going to really fight but I was squaring up to Fernandinho. It's one of them where it's an intense game, so something was bound to happen. It was a penalty and Marcus was accused of diving, which is wrong, so I had to help him out in that situation but, obviously, I want to look after the young lads.
"Me coming through the ranks, I have been there before. I had Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley looking after me, so it's only right that I look after the young lads."
Warrington-born Lingard is one of a glut of promising young players on whom Louis van Gaal, the manager, has leaned heavily this season and to whom he will look again this evening (Saturday) as United attempt to overcome Everton in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
It is 12 years since United last won the trophy and Lingard, remarkably, will be the only player in Van Gaal's squad who was on the club's books when they overcame Millwall 3-0 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
Wayne Rooney would not join United from Everton for another few months, and while Lingard cannot remember too much about that day - he was 11 - he is relishing the prospect of finally gracing the Wembley turf after three previous visits when he was forced to watch from the sidelines.
The first was as a spectator when Barcelona bamboozled United in the 2011 Champions League final, then as an unused substitute in the club's Community Shield win over Wigan Athletic two years later and England's friendly against France last November. "I remember watching the Barcelona game with the rest of the youth lads and thinking, 'This is massive, with a massive pitch and a great atmosphere'," he said. "I've been there a few times and haven't played so I just want to be out there playing."
Perhaps it is because there are much younger players around him and he has been on the scene for a while, patiently biding his time, but it is easy to forget that Lingard is, like Rashford, in his first season in United's first team and has made only 35 appearances for the club. Like Rashford, though, he seems to be taking the pressure in his stride.
"I am pretty much fearless, like the other young players that are coming into the squad now, such as Rashford and (Anthony) Martial," Lingard, 23, said. "You are just playing football with your friends, pretty much, but, obviously, you still have to win the game."