Manchester United appear to be short on forwards ahead of Friday night’s clash with Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.
Anthony Martial and Amad have both left on loan, while Mason Greenwood won’t feature for the club again for the foreseeable future. Now, Ralf Rangnick is poised to place his faith in Jesse Lingard.
Lingard had been hoping to leave United behind on transfer deadline day, with Newcastle and West Ham both admirers of the 29-year-old.
But he was denied the chance to depart Old Trafford and, with his contract winding down, is now poised to stay until the summer where he’ll become a free agent.
Regarding United, they’ve been condemned for holding Lingard back. Especially given his lack of minutes under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Rangnick this term.
Yet, now, Lingard has a chance to show he deserves to stay at United. At the very least, that his departure come the summer will be their loss and his gain.
United have, for a long time, appreciated Lingard’s talents – regardless of his game time.
Rene Meulensteen, who kept a close eye on the forward during his own time at United, once went as far to compare Lingard to Andres Iniesta.
In February 2020, the Dutchman said: “Jesse had various loan clubs and then he came back.
“And I think Louis van Gaal was the manager at the time and Louis was very big on bringing young players through and Jesse got the chance to suddenly play in the first team and so did [Marcus] Rashford.
“That’s the luck that you need and certain managers can see it.
“Jesse always had attributes in his game as Iniesta had for Barcelona.”
Until January of last year, Meulensteen was mocked for his comments.
Lingard went nearly the whole of the 2019/2020 campaign without scoring or assisting, only finding the net in the 2-0 victory over Leicester on the final day of the season.
But the United star, ever since a successful loan spell at West Ham, has now rebuilt his reputation.
Upon landing Lingard, David Moyes insisted he was onto a winner – despite the criticism the England star had been receiving at the time.
“I’ve seen him play as a young boy, when he was still a wide player on the right, and I’ve seen him play off the left,” Moyes said at the time.
“He’s played for England as a No 10, he’s played for England as a No 8, and I actually think if we needed him as a False nine, he could do that as well.
“We’re bringing in that versatility, I’ve wanted to try to get an energetic team at the moment and Jesse has been known for his work-rate and effort.
“So I think he’ll fit in nicely with what we’ve got.
“I hope he brings us a little bit of quality too, and a winning mentality from Manchester United.”
Lingard did exactly that.
The United star was brilliant during his spell at the London Stadium, netting nine times from 16 Premier League matches.
Lingard also clocked up four assists and earned a recall to the England squad for the first time since 2018.
But his continuous absence from the United first-team, to this point, has been a mystery.
It’s not that Lingard has been poor or inconsistent. Like Donny van de Beek, he’s barely been given a chance.
With just nine Premier League appearances so far, it’s now down to Rangnick to get him fully firing and back to his West Ham best.
Lingard was impressive off the bench as United beat the Hammers 2-1 in September, scoring a dramatic late winner in the capital.
And it’ll be down to him to help fire the club into next season’s Champions League.
If United can get Lingard back to what he was a year ago, they may just be able to save their season around.
Play him. Because the alternative is another year in the Europa League – and yet another bump in an already rocky road.