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Jesse Lingard’s rise in form could be good for Manchester United this summer

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Jesse Lingard has been at Manchester United for the last 21 years, signing for the club as a youth player, previously playing for both Fletcher Moss Rangers and Penketh United. He has made a total of 210 appearances for United as a professional player, scoring 33 goals and 20 assists in his time at the club, making his debut in the 2014/15 season under the management of Louis van Gaal. Sir Alex Ferguson had previously stated that Lingard would be a late developer in the game, which is exactly what he was, although his form stuttered over the last few seasons, which was not good for either the club of the player. During his time at United, Lingard spent many seasons out on loan with Leicester City, Birmingham City, Brighton and Hove Albion and Derby County all clubs he tried to find his form before hitting the high notes at United.

After scoring 13 goals in 48 appearances during the 2017/18 season, which was his peak for scoring goals in his career at United, Lingard then started to fall down the pecking order under Jose Mourinho, the manager who followed Van Gaal then under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, still had a barren period at the club which saw him fall from starter to bench warmer, to a player that missed out a lot of the time. A turbulent time in his family life has helped to cause a downturn in Lingard’s career and in January 2021, the 28-year-old, who should be hitting his peak was loaned to West Ham United under former United manager David Moyes. There was high hopes for the player to raise his game with fewer pressure than he would be under at United, which could reignite the player’s career in the game that he loves.

Lingard made waves at West Ham, scoring nine goals and five assists in 16 Premier League appearances, which saw the player reach for form he once had at United. The season ended with West Ham finishing sixth in the league and achieving a place in the UEFA Europa League group stages. This will be good for the London club next season, although it will case problems as they do not have regular experience of playing in European competitions taking it’s toll on the club. There was a lot of talk at the end of the with the Hammers interested in signing Lingard permanently, but also the player seemingly interested in remaining a United player and fighting his way back into the first team, which may or may not be possible for him. The lack of pressure away from United was good for him, which may result in his performances being stagnant again, if he stays.

Does Lingard have a future at Manchester United?

United have many options at the club already in the attacking positions in the squad and Lingard would definitely be behind Bruno Fernandes playing behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He can also play on either wing, but will be behind Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Anthony Martial on the left and once again Rashford, James, Mason Greewood and quite possibly Amad Diallo on the right. It would see Lingard’s options reduced to a bench warmer once again, or even a player that misses out more often than not. It would be a shame if that happened. There is a chance he could get himself higher up the pecking order with Rashford carrying an injury and maybe needing an operation after Euro 2020 this summer and the fact that players who participated in the tournament may not be in the early stages of pre-season.

This would give Lingard time to impress Solskjaer and perhaps get himself into the squad, either as a starter or a substitute at the start of the 2021/22 season, with United getting ready to start the season at home to Leeds United in the first Premier League match of the season. If United were to complete the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, which looks highly likely at this time, his work to get into the squad would become much harder. Saying that, United will need a payer capable of stepping in for Fernandes, who is clearly fatigued after the delay from the 2019/20 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, then the 2020/21 season commencing after a break of just four weeks or so, then a long and strenuous 2020/21 season, which saw United reach the final of the UEFA Europa League, losing to Villarreal in Gdañsk.

Lingard has shown with his form at the Hammers, that he is still a player that can put in the performances, but it is unknown whether he can meet tat same grade at United, with him working much harder to displace other players at the club in order to get more match time. It would seem that with talented youth coming through the ranks, such as Shola Shoretire, Anthony Elanga and Hannibal Mejbri – it could pose a higher level of difficulty for Lingard to achieve his place in the squad. It all seems complicated at this time, which may be simplified if a number of players were loaned this summer, or even sold. The future of Juan Mata will have a big say in what happens too, as that will leave another player to complete with – which might not be fun for Lingard. He has already had a tough summer, being named in the England training squad but removed for Euro 2020.

The future may look a lot clearer for Lingard away from the Theatre of Dreams

Lingard will become a free agent in the summer of 2022 so there is little time to get something sorted if United wanted to recoup some money from the sale of the player. There have been rumours of a £25 million transfer fee and a wage of £110,000 per week, which is something that puts the Hammers off purchasing the player as their wage bill will be hampered by that much weekly wage on one player. He would become one of the best players at the club though, with experience of the English game and more importantly, European experience, winning the Europa League in the 2016/17 season under Mourinho. There may be much work for both United and the Hammers to get a deal done for the player but there is also a chance that United would offer him a new contract, keeping him at United, or even ensuring that he cannot leave the club as a free agent.

If that was to happen, Lingard would want to be guaranteed game time at United, otherwise he would not sign a new contract as he would become frustrated. There may well be other teams out there who hold an interest in Lingard, which could pay the £25 million fee and pay the wages that he will demand, although he may need to lower his expectations as his time at United, on the wage that he has been on, does not exactly look all that great for him. Keeping Lingard at United could represent the repeat of a mistake, which has been made many times before. Phil Jones should have left the club on the expiry of his last contact with Marcos Rojo also sealing the same fate but new contracts were offered and United were stuck and still are with Jones who has not played for 18 months now. These mistakes need to be avoided if the club is to move forward.

For me, I would rather see Lingard sold. I don’t think the pressure to succeed at United would see him give the same performances he gave at West Ham and with the rumours of a new three-year deal being offered by United, it could represent yet another mistake that could cost United. If the reported £130,000 per week wage is correct, it will price so many clubs out of making an offer for Lingard, even at the end of his contract. Yes, his form at West Ham was good but not good enough for United to give hims a pay rise. He should be taking a pay cut, possibly have a bonus structure tied into his contract paying him more for good appearances but no player would accept that when they know United will pay them higher rates of money, even if they have a track record of poor performances for a number of seasons. Hopefully he wants to salvage his career away from United.

Written by John Walker

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