Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho revealed he will be building his squad on tried and trusted players, rather than rough diamonds, hinting that a youth policy will be scraped for more experienced heads.
This could be bad news for the likes of Jesse Lingard who has struggled for form in 2018 and might not see much playing time next season if new signings are brought in.
The 25-year-old has been given a lot of playing time, but he’s never nailed down one specific position, instead being moved around at the will of Mourinho.
And now the United boss has a summer transfer window to strengthen areas he thinks the side are weak in, are Lingard’s days numbered?
Mourinho admits he’s opting for experience over youth to challenge for the title
The 55-year-old admitted earlier in May that too many of the United players were mentally weak, suggesting that a squad containing such individuals won’t challenge for the title, hence why United finished 19 points adrift of champions Manchester City. It hints that the Red Devils will be signing more tried and tested players, rather than ones in development, as Mourinho is a short-term manager who doesn’t care for the long-lasting effects his actions cause.
It’s why the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku were sold during his time as Chelsea manager, as the pair weren’t deemed good enough for the first-team and therefore not worth Mourinho’s time developing. It’s also why Anthony Martial is playing second fiddle to Alexis Sanchez in the United attack, as developing players takes time, while experienced ones can impress from the off.
One look to the United squad and their transfer targets would highlight exactly what direction the manager wants to take the club. The Red Devils have eight played above the age of 28 and seem to be targeting players near that age too. Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld is 29 and a target for Mourinho, while Alex Sandro is 27. Lingard isn’t a young player himself at age 25, but he’s still developing. However, Mourinho may lose patience with the English international if he isn’t impressing enough on the pitch.
Does Lingard offer enough to warrant keeping?
Lingard rose through the youth ranks to the first-team in 2012 and has gone on to make 131 appearances in all competitions, scoring and creating just 38 goals. The versatile attacking-midfielder contributed a respectable 20 goals in 48 games across the board this season, but his form fell apart in 2018.
The academy graduate scored just two league goals and made two assists this year in the Premier League, while failing to contribute at all in the Champions League. Lingard lasted a full 90 minutes just once in the top-flight since the turn of the year and might be phased out of the side next season if he can’t recapture his form.
It’s worth noting Lingard was either substituted on or substituted off in 30 of his 33 Premier League appearances, highlighting that he’s still somewhat expendable to Mourinho. He’s made the England squad for the World Cup, as recognition for his efforts last season, but who United sign this summer might dictate his Old Trafford future.