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Reputation in freefall: How Lingard antics typifies today's Man Utd

COMMENT: So, Manchester United fans. Proud of your club today? No, no. Not the one of Robson, Keane or Rooney. But today's version. The United of Pogba. Woodward. And Lingard...

When is enough, enough? When does someone at United... no, actually scrap that. When does someone simply connected to United. When does someone. Anyone. When do they publicly intervene and say 'enough!'?

The place is a mess. A shambles. Last month, this column lamented the manner of United's end of season. The lasting memory of a half-naked Paul Pogba arguing with fans at the Stretford End of the ground. Just minutes after defeat to an already relegated Cardiff City.

You hoped the image would shake those upstairs. Kick them into some sort of meaningful action. Instead, the managed decline of this once giant has simply gained pace.

Sunday. The start of the week. And Pogba - again - is openly declaring he wants out. Away from the club minders. From the other side of the world. This leader, as Ed Woodward would have everyone believe. He's decided it's time to cut and run. And he'll do it by any means necessary.

Then came Wednesday's episode. Jesse Lingard, who will be 27 years of age this year. The self-declared '0.012 per center'. Filming himself. Friends. And United teammate Marcus Rashford. All in a foul-mouthed, degrading scene. Self-promoting. Self-indulging. And self-inflicted.

If it was a one-off, you would excuse it. A mistake. He'll learn and correct. But this is typical of Lingard. Just as Pogba's declarations in Tokyo were simply reverting to type.

Did anyone inside the club pull up Lingard and Rashford about their '0.012 per cent' post? No. Did anyone official call up Lingard after his clothing line and Busby Babes post? No. And will anyone take action after his antics in Miami? Well, you'd get long odds on things changing.

So how are United fans feeling? Particularly those in the Northwest. The ones who mix with friends and work colleagues. The Manchester City supporters celebrating a league title. A scandal free league title. And Liverpool. The European champions. Again, like City, won with a team of players famous for what they do on the pitch - not in cyberspace.

This column has been supportive of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's appointment. He can make this job a success. But he's wrong. Dead wrong. When he publicly excuses his players over their social media activity.

This isn't a 'sign of the times'. You don't see this stuff from Pep Guardiola's City. Indeed, when one his players skirts the edges, as Benjamin Mendy has, he's pulled into line. That Mendy is now fighting for his career at City is no coincidence.

And you also don't see such behaviour from Liverpool's players. Nor Juventus. Real Madrid. The clubs United once regarded as peers - that is before Woodward was promoted to vice-chairman.

Need to know how to handle a player going off script? Just consider Barcelona and Arturo Vidal. The Chilean did nothing like what Lingard routinely indulges in. A slow start to his Barca career. Left on the bench by coach Ernesto Valverde. And the midfielder posted an 'angry face' emoji. It was childish. Almost pathetic. And something that drew an immediate public chastising from Barca officials. And privately a dressing down by Valverde and GM Pep Segura. The result? Vidal pulled his head in and by the end of the season was as good a performer as any in Barca's title winning campaign.

Apologists rallying to Lingard's defence argue it's his down time. On summer break, he should be allowed to act however he wishes. Basically, away from the club, he doesn't owe them anything.

The club that has made him a millionaire, several times over. The club that has given him the platform to launch clothing lines. To secure endorsement deals. All those players. Those coaches. All those men who helped build a reputation for excellence. As he stands on their shoulders. Lingard, apparently, owes them nothing. Not even a show of decent public behaviour.

The day of Lingard's Spielberg moment, Santi Cazorla was lifting the lid on the celebrations of Sergio Ramos' marriage to Pilar Rubio. The Arsenal favourite, now armed with a fresh Villarreal contract, part of a glittering guest list of Spanish football's biggest names.

As Cazorla detailed the reception, he revealed the one request made by the Real Madrid captain was that all mobile phones and cameras be left at home. It was a point Cazorla made several times during his interview. It was a relief for everyone attending that they could enjoy themselves. Let their hair down. All without the concern of a snap appearing in the media the following day.

This concern is generated by players. Serious pros. Who know the consequences for their clubs. Themselves. Their fans. They know what it means to let their support network down by acting up in public. Cazorla was articulating the relief that every public figure had at the Ramos wedding. That they could - for one day - deviate from their buttoned up public persona and be themselves.

Take your pick of Ramos' guests and they've all made their mark on the game. As stated, serious pros. Winners. And it's an approach, a willingness to embrace such responsibility, that has helped Ramos become among the most successful players in the game.

It was also an approach which United once boasted. The United of Sir Alex Ferguson. But today? Today the approach is anything goes - and sod the consequences. Or so it seems.

At least that's the growing impression of this United. The one of Pogba, Woodward and Lingard.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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