Jesse Lingard contract situation shows how Man United are getting it wrong
Lingard looks set to leave Man United on a free transfer.
Jesse Lingard is set to leave Manchester United at the end of the season on a free transfer, according to reports. Lingard, 28, has reportedly decided against signing a new contract and could leave the club as soon as January.
Man United, meanwhile, could lose the player for nothing, a few months after they received multiple offers to sign him. The Lingard episode has conveyed the lack of joined-up thinking at Old Trafford.
Jesse Lingard unlikely to extend his Man United contract.
According to The Times, talks between Lingard and Man United over a new contract have collapsed. The England midfielder, who excelled on loan with West Ham United last season, reportedly has no intention of resuming negotiations with the Red Devils.
Lingard is understood to be frustrated with the club's "behaviour" during talks earlier this season. Man United are said to have opened with an offer that was lower than the player's current salary.
The 28-year-old is also unhappy with his lack of playing time. Solskjaer reportedly promised Lingard more opportunities when he returned from West Ham. Yet, he has only started once this season - the Carabao Cup loss to the Hammers at Old Trafford in September.
Lingard has found playing time hard to come by, despite the team's poor recent form and scoring twice when coming on as a substitute.
Solskjaer would possibly argue that he has several players currently ahead of the attacking midfielder, such as Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
Lingard, however, has reportedly grown tired of the situation and wants to kickstart his career elsewhere.
His representatives are said to have already held talks with an unnamed overseas club. The Times also report that he is open to leaving the club on loan in January and seeing out the final six months of his contract away from Old Trafford.
Lingard situation sums up Man United failings.
If Lingard does leave Man United next June on a free transfer, it will be an embarrassment for the club and another example of their poor transfer strategy.
Last summer, Man United reportedly had the opportunity to sell Lingard and receive at least £20m for him. The England midfielder was one of the best players in the Premier League in the second half of last season. In 16 games for David Moyes' team, he scored nine goals and registered five assists. In the first half of the season, before he left Old Trafford on loan, Lingard made just three appearances. It was in everyone's best interests for the player to move on.
So, Man United had one of the league's most in-form players on their books, someone with one year left on his contract, who had excelled away from Old Trafford but was a squad player for the Red Devils. Lingard's stock had never been higher, and the club never had more incentive to sell him. Man United also had a clear need for an elite central midfielder and a right-back.
Surely, the smart move was to leverage West Ham's interest in Lingard to try to complete a move for Declan Rice, a player Solskjaer have reportedly identified as a long-term target.
Even if that transfer was too difficult to complete, they could have banked the money from Lingard's sale and put it towards solving problem positions in Solskjaer's messy squad.
Instead, they reportedly rejected approaches from six clubs for Lingard and now could lose him for nothing.
Man United may not have received a suitable offer last summer. But, at this juncture, any offer is better than losing him for nothing. Ultimately, rather than act, they sat on their hands.
Man United reportedly rejected approaches from six clubs for Lingard.
Solskjaer has spoken about wanting to keep the player but offered no concrete explanation of how he planned to integrate Lingard into his crowded forward line. It was all quite vague and wishful, like so much of what he says in public.
"We really want to see the best of Jesse this season and we hope to see him, we support him, and we hope to keep him here with us," Solskjaer said in September. The Norwegian wanted the player to sign a new contract and noted that "he’s a Red through and through.”
Yet, Solskjaer seemingly cannot keep fringe players happy and lacks the tactical acumen to put shape on a disjointed squad. Without a clear plan or philosophy of play, the club are repeatedly making poor decisions and lack foresight.
In fact, Solskjaer's approach is so haphazard that Daniel James started ahead of Lingard against Wolverhampton Wanderers two days before he was sold to Leeds United for £25m. James also started ahead of Lingard against Leeds on the opening day of the Premier League season.
Meanwhile, Man United signed Cristiano Ronaldo, a player who thrives off crosses into the box. Yet, to accommodate Ronaldo, United sold James, their only natural winger and the forward player most likely to deliver those crosses. And they retained Lingard, their most salable asset last summer and player without an obvious starting position in the team.
The England midfielder was prevented from moving only to decide he wants to leave because the playing time promised to him hadn't been met. How does the player who was sold end up starting two games ahead of the player who the club fought to keep? It is baffling.
Meanwhile, last summer, Man United had a coveted asset and other areas in the squad that needed addressing. Rather than being proactive and aggressively using their resources to build a squad capable of winning major trophies, they opted for the lazy option.
The Lingard episode offers insight into how and why the club is currently floundering on and off the pitch.
🗣 "He gives energy and quality to the group every day"#MUFC manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shares his thoughts after Jesse Lingard’s contract talks with Manchester United were put on hold. pic.twitter.com/mX00hFMRDE
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) November 19, 2021