It doesn’t sound like he wants out, but Jesse Lingard's time at Old Trafford may soon come to an end.
Manchester United can now call on the inventive Portugal international Bruno Fernandes in Lingard’s position, and that might just signal that time's up for a player all too widely criticised by Twitter trolls and statisticians only looking at the bare facts of this current season.
The honest truth of the matter is that this has been nothing like a normal season for the England international off the pitch, so why should it be anything like normal on it? When his mother fell ill late last year, he took care of his two younger siblings, even taking them to parents’ evenings.
Not only that, but Lingard has a child of his own, a one-year-old daughter with a partner he is no longer with. He opened up in December about how when he explained these circumstances to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, he immediately felt a weight had been lifted.
Bluntly, he has had a terrible season. The backend of last term was also poor, prompting the now widely discussed fact that he failed to score a single Premier League goal in the calendar year of 2019. He did net in both the FA Cup and Europa League in that time, mind.
Form like this has made it easy to forget the energetic and involved player he was when he first broke through on the red side of Manchester.
A highly tipped youngster who won the FA Youth Cup in the same team as Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison and England teammate Michael Keane, his best moment in United colours came back in 2016 during his first full season. He’d played a big part in Louis van Gaal’s FA Cup team, capping that off with a thunderous volleyed winner in extra time of the final against Crystal Palace.
Memories of Alan Pardew’s premature dancing still linger today.
Lingard has 31 competitive goals for United, hardly a bad record for a midfielder whose senior career at the club has only spanned five full seasons. He is a true example of a player who fine-tuned their talents with a succession of loan spells away from his parent club.
The first, at Leicester, didn’t quite work out. It’s incredible to think that the Foxes’ squad that season boasted Lingard, Keane, Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane. Vardy and Kane spent a lot of that season on the bench. How times change.
And things changed for Lingard, too. Spells at Birmingham, Brighton and Derby showcased what the United academy graduate can do, that being scoring goals.
The best season of Lingard’s career is undoubtedly the 2017/18 campaign, when he posted 13 goals for United. Not only was he the side’s main creative midfielder, but he was also England’s. The first player handed a senior debut by Gareth Southgate - in Southgate’s very first game at the helm - Lingard scored the winner against the Netherlands in March 2018 before netting a stunning whipped goal from range against Panama at the World Cup.
Southgate and his assistant manager Steve Holland beamed at each other. It seemed Lingard had reached the big time.
Two more goals for England followed in November, but his career on all levels has certainly stalled since. It is best for all parties if he waves goodbye to his boyhood club, given he now needs to be sensible and start games in the Premier League. There's always FaceTime if he needs to catch up with good buddy Marcus Rashford.
Premier League clubs like West Ham, Newcastle , Everton, Leicester and Arsenal have been linked with Lingard so far. And those five may remain interested, even though, as 90min reported earlier in May, he likely won't be forced out of the club.
West Ham and Newcastle often play 4-4-2, a formation much too rigid to allow Lingard the freedom to influence play in the way he is used to, meaning the 27-year-old would need to be more adaptable, possibly playing either as an eight or out wide on either flank.
At Everton, Leicester and Arsenal though, the attacking midfielder would fit in much better. The only true number ten at Everton who would pose an immediate threat to Lingard is the talented Icelander Gylfi Sigurðsson, who has endured a duff campaign similar to Lingard’s. This season, he has scored just once in the league, compared to 13 goals last term.
Leicester were hardly an ideal fit when he joined on loan in 2012, but they would be nowadays. Brendan Rodgers’ squad does have much heavier competition, it has to be said, but the acutely talented James Maddison may leave for a big money move this summer.
Who advises Jesse Lingard by the way? Pack your things and go to Emirates, they are still scrambling and gambling to get their first 11. Arteta can revive your career.— ROBBERTS??? (@NyumuRobberts) April 7, 2020
That would leave Dennis Praet centrally and Harvey Barnes, Marc Albrighton and Ayoze Pérez out wide as the main competitors to Lingard. Those are all good players, but Lingard would rightly back himself to clock up a fair few minutes across the season, and certainly more than if he stayed at United.
Moving to Arsenal provides a very intriguing prospect. The Gunners have found him quite a handful whenever they’ve faced him - he has scored against the north London club four times. But it is here that he might fit in best.
The short, snappy passing football that screams ‘Arsenal’ has been embraced by Mikel Arteta, and in that environment Lingard would likely thrive. His form at international level can be attributed to playing in a similarly fluid system - European-style, almost; not often accredited to English clubs nor the England national team.
The crux of the story is this. Whatever may or may not be going on in Lingard’s head, in his private life, or in the Premier League over the past year-and-a-bit, he is a footballer who yearns for the opportunity to express himself with cute passes, smart touches in midfield, and the odd scorcher from range, bent into the corner quite perfectly.
If he finds a club that can meet the conditions that allow him to play the way he likes, his career might enjoy the renaissance it most certainly needs. It's too early to write him off. After all, Jesse Lingard graduated through one of the world’s most highly acclaimed academies for a reason.
Source : 90min