Man Utd blocked Jesse Lingard from leaving in January; Ralf Rangnick revealed Lingard is unavailable for Friday's FA Cup fourth-round tie against Middlesbrough so he can 'clear up his mind', but the 29-year-old says his 'headspace is clear'; Paul Pogba to return from injury against 'Boro
Friday 4 February 2022 12:52, UK
Jesse Lingard insists his "headspace is clear" after Ralf Rangnick said the forward asked Manchester United to take some time off to "clear up his mind".
United interim boss Rangnick revealed Lingard is unavailable for Friday's FA Cup fourth-round tie against Middlesbrough as he takes a short break after the board blocked him from leaving in January amid interest from Newcastle and West Ham.
Rangnick said at a press conference on Thursday: "Jesse asked me and the club if he could have a couple of days off just to clear up his mind. He will be back in the group I suppose next Monday and part of the squad again."
However, Lingard later took to Twitter to contradict his manager's comments. He said: "The club advised me to have time off due to personal reasons!
"But my headspace is clear and I'll always be professional when called upon and give 100 per cent."
Rangnick revealed the situation regarding Mason Greenwood was partly behind the decision to keep Lingard for the rest of the campaign.
Greenwood, who was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of the rape and assault of a woman, has been released on bail pending further investigation and remains suspended by United.
"Three weeks ago Jesse didn't want to leave," Rangnick said. "Then he changed his mind.
"I had a chat with him some 10 days ago and I could fully understand why he wanted to leave to get game time for his future, also for the World Cup.
"I said to him at the time in case he finds a club where he would like to play for and also the club finds a solution with our club, I would let him go, I would allow him to leave.
"Obviously with all the developments we had in the last couple of days, things changed a little bit.
"On the other hand, we also had no agreement with any other club, so at one stage we had to take a final decision together with the board and we decided to rather keep Jesse until the end of the season."
It is the second time in recent months a Manchester United player has offered a different version of events to Rangnick via social media.
Last month, Anthony Martial denied a claim from Rangnick that he refused to be part of the squad for a Premier League game at Aston Villa.
Rangnick said "he didn't want to be in the squad". Martial later said on Instagram he would "never refuse to play a match for Man United".
Lingard and Manchester United's differences should never have entered the public domain, according to David Ornstein of The Athletic, who still believes there is a role for the 29-year-old to play at Old Trafford despite falling out with his manager.
"I'm not surprised to see Lingard respond the way he did because the initial shot was made when Rangnick went public. Lingard is perfectly entitled to stick up for himself and if he feels his situation needs to be clarified he's going to do so," Ornstein said.
"This is an absolute mess. After the Martial comments, we have another senior Manchester United player and international seemingly at loggerheads with his club, in particular the manager, although I'm not sure the manager is the clear target, it's the hierarchy above Rangnick who blocked Lingard's proposed loan before the transfer deadline.
"This public disagreement is not healthy for anybody at United, it really should be sorted out behind the scenes. If there are personal or mental health reasons at play, this really should be going on and being sorted out in the background.
"To all intents and purposes, Lingard will be leaving Manchester United as a free agent in the summer. He wanted to go in January, it probably should have been sorted out then. Perhaps United are now seeing the repercussions and it's pretty ugly.
"With Donny van de Beek and Martial having left on loan, and the issues surrounding Mason Greenwood, there is a very good chance Lingard will get game time.
"We don't know exactly what has gone on behind the scenes but if Lingard is to stay at United until the summer before some sort of termination it would suit all parties to reintegrate him, build bridges, repair some of the damage, and get him back in the team.
"He is a valuable asset to Manchester United, he's got a unique skillset they could do with. This doesn't need to be as acrimonious as it has been so far. It's really up to Manchester United to step up to the plate, speak to Lingard, and hopefully come to an amicable solution."
Rangnick likened Lingard's situation to that of Paul Pogba, who the interim boss has previously suggested could be motivated by the chance to earn a new deal elsewhere.
The 28-year-old midfielder is also out of contract this summer and will return on Friday from a three-month lay-off with a thigh injury.
"I'm happy to have him back in the squad," Rangnick said. "He might be playing from the start tomorrow.
"His best possible position is, for me, one of central midfield positions - either an eight or a 10, but the way that we are currently playing I rather see him in the eight position.
"Yeah, we will have to see. It's up to him now. His contract is expiring in the summer and no matter if in the end he would like to stay or go somewhere else, he has to show up.
"It's not only in the interest of us as a club, also in his personal interest that he plays and performs on the highest possible level in the next couple of weeks."
Asked if he was recommending or even urging the club to sort a new deal with Pogba, Rangnick added: "We haven't spoken about that at all so far - not only about Paul's situation but also about other players with contracts expiring in the summer. We also didn't speak about new players so far.
"As I said, my focus now is to play the best possible season that we can, be as successful as we can be and, for Paul, it's in his own interest to play on a high level, to have a good performance tomorrow and do everything to get into the first XI.
"This will not automatically happen because we have other players in that area. Fred has been doing well in the last weeks since I arrived. We reduced the amount of goals that we conceded.
"It's up to him. In the end, the players themselves decide who will be in the starting line-up. The group is smaller now but still strong enough and competitive enough to be successful."
Rangnick says he has "no idea" whether he will take over permanently at United next season, as speculation around Mauricio Pochettino becoming the next manager at Old Trafford intensifies.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked, Rangnick signed a deal to take temporary charge of the team until the end of the season, with a view to staying on in an advisory role for an additional two years.
United are searching for a successor to Solskjaer with Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino and Ajax head coach Erik Ten Hag the two leading candidates.
Talk of a potential move for Pochettino has heated up this week amid reports that the former Tottenham head coach is unhappy with the transfer dealings in Paris after they failed to sign Tanguy Ndombele.
Asked if he had discussed what his position at United will be after this season, Rangnick said: "I have no idea, my full focus is on developing and training the group.
"We have important games coming up in three different competitions, so I can not give any reasonable answer to that question. My focus is on the next couple of weeks and months and being as successful as we can be."
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