Where are they now? Man Utd’s XI from Jesse Lingard’s debut in 2014
Jesse Lingard will leave Manchester United in the summer of 2022 after an unsatisfactory end to his eight seasons at Old Trafford – and he didn’t enjoy the most memorable of debuts either.
Lingard started the first game of the 2014-15 season as United welcomed the start of the Louis van Gaal era, but the future England international limped off injured as United fell to a shock home defeat against Garry Monk’s Swansea.
The midfielder did become an important member of the United squad, scoring in the 2016 FA Cup final but his latter years at Old Trafford were distinctly unmemorable. A sparkling loan spell at West Ham in the 2020-21 season has only underlined the sense of waste surrounding Lingard’s career.
We’ve taken a look at that United XI that fell to defeat back in August 2014 and how they’ve fared since.
GK: David de Gea
One of only two current United players who’ve won the league at Old Trafford, De Gea has served the club with distinction since 2011.
Despite some dips in form over recent years, the goalkeeper has been one of United’s best players this season and regularly speaks out about the malaise at Old Trafford.
He’s seen off the challenge of Dean Henderson but incoming boss Erik ten Hag may yet prefer a goalkeeper who’s more comfortable with the ball at his feet.
CB: Phil Jones
More of a meme than a footballer over recent seasons, Jones’ appearance against Wolves at the start of January was one of the more heart-warming moments in United’s campaign.
The centre-back rejected the chance of a testimonial in 2021, telling Goal: “There’d be only my mum and dad who would turn up.”
But the former England defender played with distinction during the 1-0 defeat against Wolves, although we’re not quite sure what Ralf Rangnick was thinking by throwing him to the lions at Anfield last month.
It’s more likely than not that Jones will leave Old Trafford in the coming months but most United fans would wish him well for the rest of his career.
CB: Chris Smalling
Smalling made 323 games for United, winning five major honours with the club, but he never quite convinced the Stretford End regulars with his defensive capabilities.
But the centre-back, like an increasing contingent of English footballers, found a welcoming home in Serie A. Smalling won a legion of fans at Roma with his commitment to the cause during a successful loan spell and the move was made permanent in 2020.
Sadly, Smalling’s long-standing injury problems reared their ugly head again but he’s still made 35 appearances this year, scoring four goals for the Europa Conference League finalists.
We imagine Jose Mourinho is more impressed with the Roma Smalling than the version he managed at United…
Roma strike back!⚡
Chris Smalling provides a crucial second goal to put his side in front👏 pic.twitter.com/UkNRvdNqqn
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 10, 2022
CB: Tyler Blackett
Blackett was the surprise inclusion in Van Gaal’s first line-up as United suffered from a defensive injury crisis – although some supporters excitedly noted their new manager’s willingness to use young players.
The youngster made 12 appearances in 2014-15, including the ignominious 5-3 loss at Leicester, and was tipped to become a “great defender” after signing a new deal in 2015.
But Blackett was soon sold to Reading, where he made over 100 appearances before leaving in 2020. He is currently on the books of MLS side FC Cincinnati, although Blackett is yet to play for his new club.
RWB: Jesse Lingard (Adnan Januzaj, ’24)
Lingard’s United debut won’t be remembered as fondly as the first appearance of his great friend, Marcus Rashford, two years later. He was taken off injured after just 24 minutes and was sent to Derby after he regained fitness.
His breakthrough came during the following season and the ‘JLingz’ became a popular figure within the dressing room and amongst the club’s supporters.
But Lingard eventually fell out of favour at United. It was a mystery that he didn’t leave the club last summer, when his stock was high following his time at West Ham, but the England international will leave Old Trafford at the end of the current campaign.
His replacement in August 2014, Januzaj, was expected to become a United mainstay but it didn’t quite work out that way.
The Belgium international, who scored against England at the 2018 World Cup, has still become a very decent player and has made over 100 appearances for La Liga side Real Sociedad.
CM: Darren Fletcher
Fletcher was an important squad member during the Ferguson years but the Swansea game marked the beginning of his final season at Old Trafford.
After spending the remainder of his career with West Brom and Stoke City, the midfielder retired in 2019 and returned to United to become the club’s under-16s coach.
He was appointed to his current role, technical director at United, in March 2021 and was believed to had a prominent role in the appointment of Ten Hag.
Whether he’ll be seen in the Old Trafford stands, communicating with the new boss via an earpiece, on matchday remains to be seen.
CM: Ander Herrera (Mauroane Fellaini, ’67)
Herrera made his United debut during the Swansea game and became a full-blooded member of the squad during his five years in England.
Trusted by Van Gaal, Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, made 189 appearances across five seasons at the club, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League with United.
The midfielder joined PSG when his contract expired in 2019 and started the Champions League final defeat to Bayern Munich a year later. Herrera has played regularly for PSG but his future at the French champions, like so many others, is currently up in the air.
Fellaini, one of only two United players signed by David Moyes, slowly won over the United fans with his penchant for match-winning goals and liberal use of his elbows.
The big-haired midfielder left for China in January 2019 and remains a Shandong Luneng player to this day. You sense United would kill for a squad option like him these days…
LWB: Ashley Young
Young has won major honours more recently than the majority of his old team-mates, helping Inter Milan win their first Serie A title in 11 years in 2021.
He gradually morphed from a winger into a full-back during his eight-and-a-half years at United, even wearing the captain’s armband on more than one occasion.
But his appearance against Swansea is best remembered for a bird defecating in Young’s mouth – something he continues to deny despite all the photographic evidence.
Young returned to his old club Aston Villa last summer and has appeared 23 times this season. Although his contract expires next month, the 36-year-old remains insistent that he wants to continue at Villa Park.
“I say to everyone I’m young by name, but I’m not thinking about hanging my boots up anytime soon,” Young told Sky Sports in April 2022.
Like I said, I’m still fit, I can still play games, get up and down the pitch. It might take me a little bit longer to recover, but other than that, I know I can go out there 100%.
“I know that I can keep going, age is just a number.”
AM: Juan Mata
He probably should have left three years ago, but Mata will finally depart Old Trafford this summer after spending eight-and-a-half years with the club.
While his number of appearances has gradually declined, the World Cup winner remains capable of great quality and he’ll be fondly remembered by United fans.
ST: Wayne Rooney
Despite everything he achieved during his playing career, many people will still claim that Rooney underachieved during his career. While he couldn’t keep up with former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney was one of the best players ever produced on this island.
United’s record goalscorer is currently manager of beleaguered Derby County who, despite Rooney’s best efforts, will be playing League One football next season.
Given the way United have lurched from pillar to post over the past decade, you wouldn’t rule out Rooney becoming United manager one day.
ST: Javier Hernandez (Nani, ’46)
One of the best pure goalscorers of his era, Hernandez notched 59 goals in all competitions across four seasons at United.
But he’d become an early casualty of the Van Gaal era, being substituted at half-time against Swansea and loaned out to Real Madrid just weeks later. The Mexico international joined Bayer Leverkusen on a permanent deal the following year.
A brief spell at West Ham followed and Hernandez is now enjoying the autumn of his career with LA Galaxy.
Nani was also cast away by Van Gaal, spending the 2014-15 season at Sporting Lisbon, before joining Fenerbache the following summer.
He’s joined Serie A relegation-battlers Venezia in January and has made 10 appearances without scoring in Italy.