With Jesse Lingard‘s potential loan deal off the table with the transfer window heading towards it’s conclusion, the handling of his situation has been a timely reminder of recent problems at Manchester United.
The 29-year-old was a sought-after player in the market this month, with Newcastle United and West Ham leading the chase for the midfielder. Other clubs such as Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Burnley also showed interest in the player, as per Chris Wheeler.
This makes it all the more confusing that a deal with a club was unable to be struck, and now United will almost certainly lose Lingard on a free transfer in the summer.
But it is not just the club’s actions in the last 24 hours which has caused this situation, the seed was planted when they decided to keep the player at the club six months prior, despite not having a plan for when he remained at Old Trafford.
James Ducker has reported that Mason Greenwood‘s currest situation is one reason behind a move being blocked for Lingard, however, ultimately, it shouldn’t have been left this late.
A successful loan spell at West Ham during the second half of last season saw Lingard scoring nine goals and earn himself praise as one of the best players in the league at the time.
Speaking in May last year, Bruno Fernandes dubbed his United teammate as the best on-form player in the division.
“For me, if you watch the last 10 games, he’s been the best player in the Premier League, scoring and assists in every game.” He told the United website.
“Everyone here is really, really happy for him. He has confidence back, he has his swag back, because he is feeling confident. We are really, really happy for what he’s doing.”
Like Bruno, you wouldn’t have been able to find a single Manchester United fan that wasn’t happy with Lingard’s turn of form. After struggling on and off the pitch, it was a brilliant feeling to see him enjoying his football with The Hammers and showing the country that he could still kick it at the top level.
For all of this, it still didn’t make sense for United to keep the midfielder. The one who heaped praise on Lingard in Bruno Fernandes had started 49 matches for United the previous year, starving Donny van de Beek – his back-up – of any significant minutes.
What was United’s solution to their attacking midfielder rotational trouble? They brought Lingard back as extra support for the position. He has started two matches this season. Meanwhile, West Ham were reportedly offering £18 million for him back in the summer.
In isolation, it looks like poor business. When you take other factors into account, it’s terrible.
United had an impressive transfer window, but it lacked the most important profile for the squad – a defensive minded midfielder. The sale of Lingard would’ve been able to bring in sufficient fund to make a further signing a possibility. It didn’t happen and United’s season derailed despite the star-studded signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho.
In came Ralf Rangnick, the interim manager tasked with turning the ship around after Ole Gunnar Solskjær was dismissed with United sitting twelve points from the top of the table after just 12 games. He identified that the bloated squad United had was an issue and causing unrest within the squad.
Speaking at the beginning of January, Rangnick told media: “When you have a big squad, in the last two games, we had most players available and only 10 field players can play and three substitutes,”
“Then you have quite a number of players who don’t even play or not even in the squad. Those players are unhappy about the situation — it’s obvious, clear.
“We have players with contracts expiring in the summer, we have maybe also one or two players who want to leave and are under contract.”
While the German has been able to send the likes of Donny van de Beek, Amad and Anthony Martial out on loan, the situation would not be such a pressing matter if players such as Lingard departed at the right time. £18 million sounded like the right time to me.
While on-field matters have slowly began to improve for United, who currently sit fourth in the Premier League, having personnel such as Lingard in your ranks – who is desperate for minutes to push for a World Cup spot in Gareth Southgate‘s England squad – is not a good thing and could cause unrest in the squad.
Ultimately, it most likely means a bit part role for the midfielder until the end of the season, where he will then leave the club for a free transfer. Like I said; £18million seemed alright, didn’t it?
It’s been a problem at Old Trafford for a while now, big wages means players are more difficult to push out of the door, but the interest was there for the midfielder in the summer and a move was logical for all parties, but it was like the club was a child who didn’t want to give up one of their old broken games because it started working again. Meanwhile, they were missing the batteries to their controller anyway.