Just when the lad had made a firm decision. Just when the soon-to-be 30-year-old had figured out his short-term future. Just at that very precise and unique moment at the end of January, he was put under a lock and retained against his will... for what, exactly? Probably for nothing, as Jesse Lingard stayed put in Manchester for the remainder of the season on the decision of caretaker Ralf Rangnick.
Rangnick’s reasons to lock Lingard under Manchester United’s key are, well, something.
“Three weeks ago, Jesse didn’t want to leave, then he changed his mind.”
“I told him if he finds a club and the club find a solution with our club I would allow him to leave.“
“The club told me, the board told me, they couldn’t find an agreement with any clubs interested in him.”
The first two statements were rather strange considering the final decision of keeping Lingard in tow. The third one was an outright blatant lie, at least by the narrative sold by Newcastle’s co-owner Amanda Staveley who claimed Newcastle was interested in signing Jesse Lingard back in January, and Lingard was interested in joining the Magpies.
Whether you believe one or the other is up to you. But adding Lingard could have been a nice addition for the alleged price of just a loan that never got anywhere because Newcastle was willing to pony up just a fifth of Man. United demands in terms of loan fees. The demand, reported to be around the £12.5M mark, would have been paid had Newcastle stayed up in the Premier League. That’s great and good business! But who in his sane mind was going to agree to pay that much assuming they’d stay up in the category, which was ultimately the goal in fostering the interest of Newcastle in Lingard?
Lingard, by the way, who prior to the negotiations breaking point had played a grand total of 282 minutes over 14 games in all competitions. Lingard, who was averaging a measly 20 minutes per game from the pine only started an EFL Cup affair against West Ham (a loss) and the last game of the Champions League’s group stage against Young Boys (a draw). Not the most appealing case right there for the club to try and fleece suitors.
At the end of the day, I’m glad Newcastle passed on Jesse back then. Look at the table, and tell me you’re not happy with the outcome too. Yes, hindsight is 20-20, but the current midfield has stayed mostly healthy, Joelinton is a bonafide midfielder these days, and Bruno would win the MVP of the second half of the season easily.
Now, if you tell me Lingard’s contract with Manchester United is expiring in a matter of weeks and he can be acquired for “free”, of course “free” meaning his wage expenses, then we’re talking.
Lingard's not a youngster anymore. He will play next season at 30 years of age from December on. That’s experience right there, and it might not align with most of Newcastle’s players—or project of contention—timeline. But as a bench/rotation option, and considering he should realistically lower his salary demands given his recent form with Manchester United, I’d not be that mad at the Toon trying to land him on at a reasonable expenditure.
Manchester United is just not paying Lingard—whatever his demands are—with a new manager taking over as soon as next June. Not only will Erik ten Hag bring his own plans and names to target in the summer transfer window, but Lingard hasn’t even featured that much since he was forced to stay in Manchester.
Since the winter window shut down Lingard has played just eight games and 279 more minutes, again for a lackluster average of 35 minutes per game. And of course, even though Lingard started two of those eight games, both starts came against fighting-for-salvation sides Leeds and Norwich. Lingard was subbed out of the pitch at the 66th and 62nd minutes of those two games respectively, mind you.
The most recent peak-power version of Lingard—Arrow-Up Lingard for you PES fans reading this—we’ve seen is probably closer to the one doing it in London for West Ham rather than his Manchester United self being punished to rot on the field while United staffers point fingers, blame, and laugh at him wrongly as another reason and prefabricated excusable tale to make an attempt at explaining all of the team maladies. The rhetoric is astounding.
United is making Lingard look bad, not the other way around. Lingard was coming off a career season. He ranked above-average in most measurable stats while donning Hammer threads. He was a legit top-tier performer on all offensive metrics you can come up with on a per-90-minute basis. And he’s available for free this summer because Machester United gonna Manchester-Unite.
Lingard fits, too, the Howe Type of Guy. He’s an underdog these days, a grizzled veteran. Lingard wouldn’t arrive in Tyneside drowned in delusions of grandeur. Far from it, or at least one would guess given his bad year in Manchester and his assumed fighting fire to build a comeback campaign in 2022-23.
As much as external observers want to pinpoint the Saudi takeover as the lone reason for Newcastle's improvement, that doesn’t quite cut the reality as is. Howe has turned long-tenured Magpies into legit performers. That’s the case of Jonjo Shelvey, rebuilt Joelinton, soon-to-be-extended Fabian Schär, or xG+xA machine Allan Saint-Maximin. Give Howe damaged goods, and reap Rolls Royce level rewards. You won’t convince me Lingard is not one more of those hidden-in-plain-sight lads just in the need of getting properly unlocked.
Lingard's future is a blank canvas, he only has to choose which colors he wants to paint it with. Black and white should very well suit it.