The managerial merry-go-round continued over the weekend when Manchester United sacked Ole Gunnar Solksjaer following the Red Devils’ humiliating 4-1 defeat at newly-promoted Watford. Solksjaer’s departure could accelerate the proposed £10 million move from Old Trafford for Jesse Lingard.
David Moyes returned to his old club during last season’s January transfer window as signed England international Lingard on loan until the end of the campaign. The loan raised a few eyebrows among Hammers fans and neutrals, not least because of Lingard’s significant drop in form after his falling out with Solksjaer.
A Scintillating Return To Form
However, Moyes saw something in the attacking midfielder, and his loan transfer proved not only fruitful but borderline on genius. Lingard directly contributed to 14 goals, scoring nine and assisting five in only 16 appearances, which helped the Hammers qualify for the Europa League. Gareth Southgate even recalled Lingard to the England set-up, and online bookmakers such as Sports Interaction had a permanent move from Manchester to London as a nailed-on certainty.
A permanent move never materialised, and Lingard returned to Old Trafford. As expected, the England man has found playing opportunities few and far between, starting only one game and making several substitute appearances totalling less than 90-minutes.
Lingard Has Options
A lack of game time is one of the main reasons contract talks between Lingard and the 13-time Premier League champions broke down last week. Lingard’s £75,000 per week contract is up at the end of the season, making Manchester United lean toward letting him go during the January transfer window instead of allowing him to leave for free a few months later. FC Barcelona, AC Milan, cash-rich Newcastle United, and Southampton are also thought to be keeping tabs on Lingard, who has 29 England caps.
A move abroad to Italy or Spain would be enticing for Lingard as it would any player of his age who knows he probably has one more move in him. That said, enjoying such a fantastic spell at the London Stadium, and with Moyes’ Hammers flying high, you would think West Ham are favourites to get their man.
Lingard seems to favour a return to London as he needs regular first-team football if he is to be part of England’s World Cup squad for 2022. On November 19, Lingard posted an Instagram story of him celebrating in a West Ham short, which contained a link to his stunning solo goal for the hammers against Wolves at Molineux. West Ham’s official account shared the post, and Lingard commented with a smoke emoji. Declan Rice replied with a pair of suspecting eyes.
Solskjar Sacking Could Help West Ham’s Cause
The sacking of Solskjaer, who said Lingard was in his plans but then hardly played him, may have Hammers fans worried that Lingard could stay at Old Trafford and fight for his place under the new manager. That is a possibility but only an outside one.
Former Hammer Michael Carrick has been placed in temporary charge of United’s first team, but rumours suggest he is only keeping the seat warm for the incoming Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman typically plays a 4-3-3 style with a narrow midfield, an out-and-out striker or centre forward, accompanied by two wingers. Furthermore, Zidane loves to get out the chequebook and sign players who fit his philosophy.
While Manchester United are not exactly strapped for cash, the Glazier Family control the purse strings and invested heavily in the squad over the summer. They forked out £76.5 million for Jadon Sancho, a player who plays in Lingard’s preferred position but has been somewhat a flop, £36 million on defender Raphael Varane, and £13.5 million plus the astronomical wages of Cristiano Ronaldo. Throw into the mix an estimated £7.5 million severance package to the outgoing Solskjaer, and it is difficult to see the United board letting Lingard leave the club for free.
They may face some stiff competition once that first official bid goes in, but it would be a shock and an upset if West Ham does not get their hands on a belated Lingard-shaped Christmas present.