Talking Tactics: Lingard can still Hammer out a future at Old Trafford
Manchester United are out of sorts and out of ideas — yet Jesse Lingard is still unable to get a sniff in Ralf Rangnick’s side.
With just six months remaining on his Old Trafford contract, a host of Premier League clubs have been linked with a January swoop for the midfielder.
But recent reports suggest Lingard, 29, would rather remain at his boyhood club in order to fight for his place.
Ahead of United's clash with Burnley this evening, we look at his potential pathway back to the starting line-up at the Theatre of Dreams.
Lingard rejuvenated his career with a fruitful six-month loan spell at the London Stadium last season.
The midfielder notched nine goals and four assists in just 16 Premier League matches, becoming an integral part of West Ham’s push for European football.
Prior to his switch to East London, Lingard had mustered only one league goal for the Red Devils since December 2018.
Yet the playmaker proved to be greatly effective as part of the supporting cast to Hammers talisman Michail Antonio.
The Warrington-born ace’s impressive form left the Hammers wanting to sign him permanently, but he opted to remain at Old Trafford.
Restricted Red Devil
Lingard has yet to start a Premier League game since choosing to stay in Manchester.
The attacking midfielder found his minutes extremely limited under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and it has been a case of more of the same under new boss Rangnick.
He has made just eight Premier League appearances off the bench this term but has proven his worth by scoring in both the 4-1 home win over Newcastle and the 2-1 triumph at West Ham in September.
Lingard’s last cameo in the league came at the start of this month — and he did not even make the matchday squad for the 1-1 draw at St James' Park on Monday.
Theatre of drought
Since Rangnick’s arrival at Old Trafford last month, the German tactician has typically deployed a 4-2-2-2 formation.
Marcus Rashford has partnered Cristiano Ronaldo up front, while Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho have operated in the supporting roles behind the front pair.
Despite playing the bottom two in their last two league games, the Red Devils have been found wanting in attack.
Rangnick’s side managed just four shots on target at Newcastle and only Edinson Cavani (4.19) has averaged more per 90 minutes than Lingard (4.09) among United players.
As the so-called Godfather of the gegenpress, Rangnick’s rock-and-roll style of play does not give opponents the opportunity to breathe.
With Ronaldo leading the line, Rangnick has been forced to make some compromises in how his side pressure the opposition.
However, it is clear the inclusion of Lingard in the starting line-up would suit the German’s style of play.
His energy and ability to press both the midfield and defence would take some of the defensive responsibility off Ronaldo’s shoulders.
Per 90 minutes, Lingard averaged 2.15 regains in the middle third last season, ranking 13th among all Premier League wingers, and he was 24th for ball recoveries with 3.92 per 90 minutes.
His goals and assists might get the headlines but Lingard is also a tireless worker out of possession.
As the January transfer window looms, talk of a Lingard exit has dominated the back pages in recent weeks.
But Rangnick has made it clear a move for any United player must suit both parties.
He said: "If a player wants to leave because he feels he will not get enough game time here with us, then we can speak about that.
"But it’s not only about what the player wants, it’s also about the situation of the club. Two things need to come together if a player wants to leave.
"One thing is if he wants to leave, but on the other hand the needs of the club need to be satisfied."
United are believed to be open to offers exceeding £15million for Lingard. Yet given their current struggles, he may be of greater value in Rangnick’s team.