It’s hard not to sympathize with Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave him playing time assurances and he didn’t keep them. Lingard has also been told he could leave the club on loan in January before his exit is blocked.
Lingard just wants to play and he’s been led down the garden path by various United figures. Lingard is being paid handsomely for his troubles, but the club’s principles are questionable. The academy graduate has played just over 500 minutes this season, his least in a campaign since joining United’s senior squad, and is set to leave United after being roughed up .
You wouldn’t blame Lingard for packing his bags with a sour taste in his mouth. Lingard was exceptional on loan at West Ham last season and his sporadic involvement this time around doesn’t make much sense, even if it doesn’t make much sense at United anymore.
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After realizing Solskjaer’s playing time assurances weren’t held earlier in the season, Lingard knew he had to leave the club in the January window. West Ham were interested but United were not going to strengthen a Champions League rival.
Newcastle quickly emerged as a suitable destination for the player. The newly taken over North East club opened talks to sign Lingard on loan in mid-January and United demanded a hefty relegation survival bonus to sanction an exit. It is believed that Newcastle were taken aback by the amount of the fee quoted by United and so the talks stuttered, but crucially the deal was not dead.
Newcastle reignited their interest in Lingard on deadline day. It is understood a compromise between the two clubs was close to being reached before United pulled the plug and talks collapsed just before 6pm. It’s fair to assume that Lingard felt cheated that night.
Lingard took a few days off following this disappointment. Ralf Rangnick claimed it was the player’s wish during his press conference, but Lingard denied this on social media, insisting the club advised him to spend time away instead.
There were also counterclaims behind the scenes. United sources have claimed the ‘original plan’ was still for Lingard to stay before Newcastle register an interest. They also pointed out that Lingard “will be an important player in the second half of the season”. Lingard has played exactly 275 minutes since those claims were made. Maybe the definition of the word ‘important’ is different at United.
Lingard was a peripheral figure for the team in the club’s worst season for 40 years. His constant omissions were confusing and compounded by the unacceptable performance of those who started ahead of him, and that he was guaranteed more minutes.
The player deserves better than to be allegedly misled and Paul Scholes, speaking to talkSPORT this week, shared that sentiment.
The United legend has condemned the club’s handling of the player. “I think Jesse has been treated pretty badly by the club, to be honest with you,” Scholes said, just days after revealing the player had privately described the dressing room as a “disaster” for him.
“He was ready to sign for Newcastle at one point, just at the end of the deadline in January, and he was told he was going to get more minutes. That obviously didn’t happen. I think that “He deserved this chance. We all saw what he did at West Ham.
“Jesse is a very good footballer, he can bring goals to a team. With this team [United] to play so badly too and for him not to have the chance as he was promised, I think he was treated unfairly. I feel like Erik ten Hag might want to keep Jesse.”
It’s not impossible that Ten Hag might consider making an eleventh-hour offer to Lingard, but it seems unlikely. As things stand, Lingard is set to leave United at the end of the season after the most frustrating period of his career.
With United 2-0 at Anfield last week, Lingard sprinted to press Joel Matip, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk, only to turn to find he was alone. His furious reaction showed how he feels about his teammates. It was overwhelming that an out-of-contract player seemed to care the most and Lingard must have wondered at the time why he hadn’t played.
He’s thought about it all season and he certainly wasn’t alone – Lingard deserved better.
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