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Manchester United formation switch might have given Jesse Lingard new role

 

 

There are three weeks left of the summer transfer window and time is running out for Manchester United to cash-in on the players deemed surplus to requirement by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

After something of a slow-burner, things are starting to heat up with a flurry of high-profile moves expected in the coming days as deadline day inches closer.

And in a week that will see Barcelona legend Lionel Messi finally depart the Nou Camp, it is a United player likened to Andres Iniesta who might have seen his immediate future determined as well.

Ahead of the summer, Solskjaer insisted there were places up for grabs for any fringe players who step into of the spotlight from the periphery and none have taken that chance quite like Jesse Lingard.

It was former United coach Rene Meulensteen who likened the 28-year-old to Barcelona legend Iniesta, boldly stating the play maker ‘always had attributes in his game’ which echoed the Spanish World Cup winner.

While he might not have reached the same lofty heights as his elder, it has been a fine year of resurgence for Lingard, who carried his excellent form with West Ham into the start of pre-season with United. In the opening match against Derby he launched a ferocious shot which cannoned off the cross bar, set up a Facundo Pellistri goal, and only need three minutes to score in the next outing against QPR.

 

Lingard was given another start in the draw with Brentford and on the weekend Solskjaer insisted he would have ‘definitely’ started against Everton if not for a positive Covid-19 test prior to the game.

The suggestion Lingard would have started the final pre-season outing indicates he is currently ahead of Daniel James in the pecking order and could yet have a new role to play in the United side for the upcoming campaign.

As things stand United are happy to keep hold of Lingard while Marcus Rashford is sidelined through shoulder injury, though his own set-back means he is likely to miss the opening matches of the season when he might very well have started.

Any move for the former West Ham loanee was expected to happen late in the window given money is tight elsewhere in the Premier League, with few teams open to meeting the valuation United have placed on a player in the last year of his contract. Ironically his situation mirrors that of current target Kieran Trippier, a player Solskjaer likes but can’t justify a huge fee on when he could arrive for nothing in less a year.

 

There is still an acceptance Lingard should still be sold if an acceptable bid is made and even his most loyal supporters must acknowledge he does not have a key role to play. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t offer something of notable value at least.

If he had started the match at the weekend the academy graduate would likely have fulfilled the left-wing role occupied by James, a position that suits his energetic dribbling style well.

Even when he is back to match sharpness there is argument to suggest Lingard could fill a back-up left-sided role in United’s attack, while he also has the attributes to play in an attacking midfield role.

The new formation which was trialled on Saturday showcased a further possible reason to keep the 28-year-old, with the switch to a sole defensive midfielder granting license for an extra midfielder to play with attacking freedom.

 

Keeping him would be quite the luxury to divulge in given a sale could raise valuable funds in the transfer window, but with three weeks left until the deadline there is no need to panic if he does stick around.

Over two decades since he joined the club’s academy it is quite easy to criticise Lingard for the things he can’t do, though if he ends up beyond the summer he might get a final chance to show exactly what he can do.

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