Jesse Lingard remained at Manchester United after deadline day passed on Tuesday. A bit-time role under Ole Gunnar Solskjær will make it increasingly difficult for the 28-year-old to regain a place in the England side for the World Cup next year.
The Manchester United midfielder was out of favour at his club as soon as they signed Bruno Fernandes in the January window in 2019. The signing from Sporting was an instant hit and is still producing incredible numbers two seasons later; this led to less game-time for Lingard, who was also going through a rough period off-the-pitch.
After starting just two matches for United in the first-half of last season, neither of which were in the Premier League, Lingard told his manager that he wanted to play football, and so a loan move materialised. It was then a case of where the midfielder should go.
“I spoke to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the start of the season and said: ‘If I’m not going to get any game time, I need to go on loan.’ We agreed to discuss it in December. I’d started two games so I said: ‘Boss, I need to go.’ He agreed.” Lingard told the Daily Mail.
“There was Newcastle and West Brom [who were interested], but then my dad got a call from David Moyes at West Ham. He said: ‘When I was at United, I let your son go out on loan. It’s time to repay the favour.’
“I spoke to him and we tried to get a deal done. It was off, then on, then off, then on. It was a rollercoaster. Me and Louie [Lingard’s brother] were crying one time because it was off. Then it was on again, so we flew straight down and got it over the line.”
The six-month loan to West Ham was a perfect decision for Lingard, who was one of the best players in the league throughout the latter months of the campaign. He scored nine goals and assisted four times in just 16 Premier League fixtures for The Hammers, it was a stint of form which forced Gareth Southgate to include Lingard in the England provisional squad for Euro 2020.
Although he was one of three players cut from the squad which eventually reached the final of the competition, Lingard came very close after a torrid year prior to his January move. It must’ve been felt that if he secured his loan at the beginning of the season then he would’ve been a certainty in Southgate’s squad come the summer.
This idea made it all the more likely that Lingard would look for a permanent move away from Old Trafford for the 2021/22 campaign and beyond. However, this was not the case with the midfielder staying in Manchester this season.
While he was on red-hot form for the London-based club, it was and still is highly unlikely that Lingard will be regularly involved in a team which has Bruno Fernandes in it. Then you’d also imagine that £40 million signing Donny van de Beek would get increased this season, which leaves minimal minutes for a player desperate to remain in the England set-up.
Even if Lingard was willing to be flexible in where he plays; there is too much superior competition in the frontline and a lack of a true defensive midfielder in the United squad makes a deeper role as a number eight less likely and less functional.
A return to West Ham seemed a possibility this window, and there was also reported interest by other clubs, including Leicester City. However, Lingard remained with his childhood club with Solskjaer claiming that the 28-year-old will have an important role under him this season when asked about a possible move away for the player.
“I think Jesse’s first priority is to get in our team.” Solskjaer stated.
“As a manager, with players and a squad like I have – it’s difficult. They all have to remember and know that they’ll play a part if we’re going to be successful. He’s got a big part to play.”
The United manager has a brilliant crop of attacking players at his disposal, especially after the signings of Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo. While Lingard may have some sort of involvement, you’d imagine that it would be nowhere near enough to push for a place in the England squad next year.
Although the midfielder made a 10-minute cameo in the England game against Hungary on Wednesday night, you’d imagine chances to get in future squads will be slim for him.
A possibly move away from the club next January could make it possible for Lingard to force his way into Southgate’s plans, but it’s unusual that he’d wait that long after his experience at West Ham- there must be confidence that he can shine at United this season.
That is wishful thinking from the 28-year-old. Good luck to him, but he could rue the decision with England being one of the favourites to lift the World Cup in 2022.