For kids from Rochdale and Warrington, who join the Manchester United academy at a young age and make the grade through the various stages of the youth system, there is only one goal.
To play for the United first team even once is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream, so to play dozens of times and make telling, match-winning contributions is beyond the wildest imaginations of many.
Nick Cox, the head of United’s academy, told MEN Sport in an interview earlier this year: “Young players making their debuts, whether it’s Ryan Giggs or Marcus Rashford or anyone else, they make the headlines but they’re the exception to the rule, they really are.”
Because although scepticism always surrounds players on the fringes at United — particularly Lingard, who has taken his fair share of brickbats over the years — you have to be extraordinarily talented and hard-working to even get a sniff.
Yet both Tuanzebe and Lingard, now 23 and 28 respectively, have to make decisions that are different and yet oddly similar, for the good of their own careers this summer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a self-proclaimed backer of homegrown talent at United and will, given the opportunity, blood academy-produced players in his senior squad. The fact that Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga, Teden Mengi, James Garner and Ethan Laird make up only around half the youth graduates to have been handed debuts under Solskjaer, speaks volumes.
The Norwegian has also continued to play academy graduates who were given debuts by his predecessors Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, and has been praised for his loyalty to the ‘United DNA’.
But in the cases of Tuanzebe and Lingard, Solskjaer appears ready to move on this summer, with the United boss also required to be ruthless with his homegrown stars when the time comes.
That time is now.
United are under pressure to launch a title bid of some substance in 2021/22 and neither Tuanzebe nor Lingard ought to come into their thinking.
Tuanzebe made just 18 appearances across the whole of last season, only four of them being starts in the Premier League (three of them in dead rubbers at the end of the campaign).
Lingard didn’t play a single minute in the league until his January loan switch to West Ham, which kickstarted his career again and thrust him back into the England reckoning. By his own admission, he rediscovered his vim and vigour, scoring nine goals to inspire the Hammers to a top six finish.
“Regular football is the most important thing for me,” said Lingard in a recent interview.
“After going on loan and getting a good run in the team, you started to see the real me, with the goals and the assists.
“I’ve never doubted my ability, I’ve always believed in myself. I spoke to the manager [Solskjaer] in pre-season and said, ‘I need game time’. He said, ‘we can discuss it December time’, and we spoke again and he agreed to let me go on loan.”
Latest reports suggest Tuanzebe is looking for a loan himself, in the hope of doing exactly what Lingard did at West Ham. The centre-back’s career is at risk of stagnating if he remains United’s fourth choice in the position and waits on the sideline for much longer.
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In truth, the decision to leave United permanently is one both Tuanzebe and Lingard should be able to make with ease this summer.
With United closing in on Jadon Sancho as an attacking signing, and trying to clinch Raphael Varane to strengthen at centre-back, the future doesn’t look too rosy for either of the two academy graduates.
Every player who bids farewell to United does so with a tinge of regret. But these two need to look forward, to what they could achieve elsewhere, while making the easiest hard decision of their careers this summer.