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Behind the times? Why Lingard's latest Man Utd blast a perfect symbol of pre- and post- Ten Hag

COMMENT: Jesse Lingard made headlines last week. He made news. But in terms of timing, the former Manchester United player's claims couldn't have been worse...

Timing isn't everything in football, but it is a lot. And the timing of Lingard's latest rant against his old club was so poor, it was almost comedic. But what it did get the midfielder was publicity. Clicks. Clout. All on the back of his old club. People were interested. Not because of anything Lingard had managed to do in a Nottingham Forest shirt (we're all still waiting for that). But what he had to say about the goings on at Old Trafford.

Why he felt the need to, only he can say. Certainly the AstroTurfed YouTube channel he went on didn't push it. But you wonder, as he expressed frustration about how he'd been treated at his old club - and how it had affected him - was there any thought for the people he chose to single out? Whether by name or position?

In any case, putting such emotion aside, Lingard's rant - and his claims - couldn't have been more ill-timed. No-one can claim United are worse off having cut loose both he and Paul Pogba. No-one can state United are weaker for not having more social media influencers in their dressing room.

"I've known him since he was like 16 - the kid has got talent, one of the best midfielders in the world and still he can't perform at United," Lingard said of former teammate Pogba. "So there's something wrong in some ways if he can't perform. Then during the season he goes to France and see how he plays there. I can't say what it is."

As Lingard attacked the club for being behind the times, it has been Erik ten Hag's very old school values which have moved United forward. That punishment run. The demand for accountability. Selection on merit. Insisting everyone, no matter the status, stick to his team rules. It's what has borne this Manchester United revival. Could Lingard and Pogba have survived such a cultural change? The answer to that is easy...

Among the big differences in this Ten Hag era has been the reaction. Or at least, the lack of reaction. That's history. The reaction to dressing room leaks. The reaction to ridiculous social media posts. The reaction to rants and raves from players away on international duty. For United - Ten Hag's United - this is no longer their problem.

Instead, in Pogba's case, that's now Juventus' burden. The Frenchman now only famous for a family feud - and the fact he still hasn't managed a competitive game since his summer return. All the while infuriating Juve supporters, first by appearing on ski slopes, then mocking those fans upset seeing the images when he was supposed to be doing his knee rehab. And of course, it was all played out on social media. Again, this is now Juve's problem to manage.

"They're so behind on everything," Lingard also said. "You see City's facilities, Tottenham's facilities... people are miles ahead. Even the social side of things.

"I went to them in 2017 about YouTube and doing content - I just wanted them to get up to date with everything and the new things that are happening. You have to be relevant and stay relevant."

For those not paying attention, the criticism would appear legit. But Lingard was still a United player when the squad was approached last season about their input on a training ground upgrade. The players were asked what they wanted to see. And now work is underway for a multi-million pound revamp of Carrington. Mags Mernagh, who is running the project, even has her own office on site. Again, does anyone ever push back on this stuff?

But get beyond all that, it was the YouTube claim that stuck out the most for this column. A real marker of the pre- and post- Ten Hag eras. Obsessing about quirky YouTube clips. About going viral on social media. That was the United of old. A month wouldn't go by without a member of the dressing room making headlines for some silly post on social media. It came from a dressing room culture that was unserious and adolescent.

But that was the past. Such accusations can no longer be leveled. Ten Hag has made it so, but isn't alone. Bruno Fernandes. Casemiro. Raphael Varane. These guys aren't dancing Tick Tockers. They're serious pros. With serious ambitions. Again, would Pogba and Lingard have survived such a dressing room?

You want to be talking about the Jesse Lingard of West Ham United. Of that World Cup campaign of 2018. Of how he's justifying his Forest wage packet, playing a key role in the revival of a great, historic club. Instead, his only opening to staying relevant has been by attacking his old employer.

In 'net-speak, it's the ultimate grift. And there will be some inside United hurt by Lingard's claims. But like Pogba, he's no longer their problem. And as United prepared for Sunday's battle at Arsenal, as much as he made headlines this week, Lingard claims mattered little.

It's a new era at Manchester United. A serious era. And just as United have under Ten Hag, it's time for Lingard to move on.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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