In a development that won’t really surprise anyone, it looks like Jesse Lingard’s time at Manchester United is up.
This once-promising academy product, who briefly became a bit of a cult hero for his big-game heroics, including a superb FA Cup final-winning goal against Crystal Palace in 2016, has now surely used up all his chances after a dire run of form in the calendar year of 2019.
Lingard notably failed to score a single goal or register a single assist in the Premier League in 2019, and now that the New Year is in, he’s being linked with a move away in a transfer story that may barely register with most.
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According to the Daily Mirror, the England international could be on offer to Leicester City as United attempt a swap deal to sign exciting young playmaker James Maddison.
The fact that a top talent like Maddison is on Man Utd’s radar will no doubt take the spotlight off Lingard’s potential role in the deal, but if he can help lure the Leicester star to Old Trafford, it will be his most meaningful contribution to the club for some time.
Of course, given Lingard’s current struggles, it remains to be seen if Leicester themselves would really take such a gamble on the player, with the Foxes perhaps more well-advised to just demand more cash up front for Maddison.
For Lingard, however, this could be a huge opportunity to still make a career for himself at this level.
For all the stick LCFC boss Brendan Rodgers gets, there are few coaches in the country right now who can improve a player like he can.
The Northern Irishman has done tremendous work since taking over at the King Power Stadium, with Jamie Vardy among those to find a new lease of life under this manager.
Harry Maguire, meanwhile, also looked superb under Rodgers before moving to United and seeing his form take a hit in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s struggling side this season.
To put it bluntly, as much as a local lad like Lingard might dream of making it big with MUFC, he may not get a better chance to earn a move to a club on the up and to play under a manager who could be ideal to harness his talents.
Make no mistake, there is a good player in there somewhere, but the 27-year-old will probably never be quite what United fans expect, and he, like even bigger talents like Paul Pogba, as well as the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez before him, will struggle to develop as he needs in this chaotic setup, with the constant change in management at Old Trafford perhaps likely to continue as Solskjaer fails to really implement any kind of convincing tactical system in over a year in charge at the club.
One can instantly imagine Lingard slotting in to a more defined role in this Leicester side and flourishing in Rodgers’ possession-based, attacking style of football. Rodgers may justifiably feel that, right now, his club can aim higher and go after better players, but if he fancies a challenge, he could probably unearth a real gem in Lingard.
There will no doubt be countless more Maddison to Manchester United transfer rumours in the coming months, with other players perhaps also likely to come up as potential makeweights in the deal, but if Lingard gets this chance to potentially save his career, it’s one he should grab with both hands.