Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira have become victims of everything that’s wrong with Manchester United this season. Both their stats so far this campaign points to a significant lack of quality within the United squad and their respective futures at Old Trafford are simply hanging by a thread.
Between the two players, their goal contributions make for a damning reading. Just 8 goals in almost 70 appearances combined. Products of United’s much acclaimed academy, their performances as of late, aren’t true representations of what constitutes being a Manchester United player. One that is increasingly efficient and impactful in all areas of their game.
Jesse Lingard has appeared in 35 games this season, scoring twice and assisting just once. The 27-year-old has not managed a single Premier League goal since December 2018, scoring a brace in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge, a 5-1 victory over Cardiff. The England international is currently embarking on a similarly difficult season, with no signs of improving.
Andreas Pereira is not fairing any better than his counterpart with only just one goal this season and contributing four assists. Their performance against Club Brugge in the Europa League may have been the final straw for Solskjaer, who for the first time this season left the pair out of his 18-man match-day squad that faced Watford.
Solskjaer on Pereira and Lingard: 'There is more and more competition for places, so of course your standard has to improve. That is what I am saying about Anthony as well; I want more from him. It's not just the ones who aren't
playing – I want more from everyone.' #mufc
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 23, 2020
Solskjaer strongly mentions the standard. He more than most holds an understanding of the standard and quality that United have harnessed in the past and his current pool of players simply doesn’t fit that bracket. There’s a case to argue, that there is not much the Norwegian could do to increase United’s creative output considering the options at his disposal. They say a manager is only as good as the squad available to him. The injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay haven’t helped Solskjaer’s cause one bit, hence United’s inconsistencies for much of the season.
In a number of games this season, Solskjaer has been forced to deploy Andreas Pereira in an unfamiliar position, as a double-pivot midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 shape. The Brazilian has shown to lack the tactical understanding, positional awareness and quality to thrive in the role, but its the only option Solskjaer could conjure up.
Jesse Lingard, on the other hand has generally been given his preferred advanced midfield role, floating just behind the striker, and has simply not performed since that purple patch back in 2018. His current output in such a role simply isn’t good enough. United have been without courage, character and risk-taking in the final third this season. Lingard and Pereira just haven’t been adequate solutions to the problem.
Solskjaer clearly identifies United’s creative issues, hence the signing of Bruno Fernandes, a vital addition to bring the potency back into United’s attacking patterns. Six games in to his United career, and the Portuguese playmaker has shown more than Pereira and Lingard have all season. Already, Fernandes has outmatched Lingard’s goal involvement with 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 games.
The implications from Solskjaer’s words after the Watford game is quite telling. Now with the players available to him, including new signings Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo, plus the return of Scott McTominay and possibly Paul Pogba within the next few weeks, Lingard and Pereira are somewhat surplus to requirements. Their omission from the previous squad could become a regular theme in the coming months.
United have a new hero in town now, and the confidence and belief with which Bruno Fernandes is performing means Solskjaer is already moving on. His side have constantly lacked the punch and elegance needed to break down low defensive blocks.
Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard have become unfortunate scapegoats of United’s failures to create opportunities. They have indeed shown the necessary qualities to counter-attack well and be effective in transition, as shown in the win against Manchester City before Christmas, but its in games where they are expected to perform, that they flatter to deceive. When in possession, its as if they are afraid to take up responsibility of the ball and make something happen.
So far, Bruno Fernandes is expertly showing what United have truly missed. The ability to dictate the tempo, disrupt the shape of defences through his extraordinary ability to execute pitch perfect through balls, take up the dangerous positions in the half spaces and when driving at his marker, creating opportunities for his fellow forwards.
Fernandes oozes such qualities, the leadership, positional intelligence, awareness and vision that’s propelled him to become one of Europe’s most feared attacking midfielders. The Portuguese international lifted the whole mood against Watford, influential on the ball as well as off it, playing a part in all of United’s three goals. These are areas in which Pereira and Lingard have remarkably failed.
United are strongly linked with the likes of James Maddison, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho, and the thought of them teaming up with Bruno Fernandes could be too tempting for Solskjaer, and most importantly, the United faithful. These are the type of players United should be possessing in their squad. Three players perfectly fitting Solskjaer’s recruitment criteria, holding the potential and abilities to become a part of the infamous United folklore.
The Norwegian is showing no signs of fearing to make the tough decisions in terms of personnel. Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Romelu Lukaku, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Alexis Sanchez have all been moved on – the latter three, on loan deals who will more than likely be moved on permanently in the summer to free up space for Solskjaer’s desired targets. Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira are on course to become a part of that exodus.