There has been a consensus among fans for some time that neither player is good enough for the level United want to return to in the near future, with Sunday’s win over Watford without the pair even making the bench serving as further evidence they aren’t needed.
Both players are products of the youth system and it is always a shame for any home-grown player to move on, especially one such as Lingard with a lengthy association with the club – he was just seven years old when he was first picked up by scouts. But the time has come.
Lingard recently played his 200th game for United, while Pereira, who has himself been at the club since 2011, has played 57 times since making the permanent breakthrough last season.
There is an argument to suggest that neither would have played so often had recruitment been handled better in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. A lack of quality alternatives, certainly in the last couple of years, has given them that game time.
Lingard, who has enjoyed obvious highs like his 2016 FA Cup final winner, has come under massive scrutiny for contributions, or measurable lack thereof. His last Premier League goal was in December 2018, while he is still waiting for his first league goal or assist of 2019/20.
Solskjaer’s explanation of why Lingard and Pereira were left out against Watford was a fairly damning assessment of their status in the current squad.
“We’ve picked a squad of 18 that we felt it was the right 18 here. We’ve got cover on the bench for wide-men, forwards, midfielders and defenders so that was a decision I made,” he told MUTV.
Lingard hasn’t started in the Premier League since New Year’s Day when he was substituted after just 58 minutes of a dismal performance. He has been a starter since then in rotated teams for FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Europa League games. Pereira is now similarly sidelined.
A large part of it has been United’s January capture of Bruno Fernandes, who against Watford alone outshone Lingard’s entire season by scoring and assisting. The Portuguese has what both Lingard and Pereira have lacked: real cutting edge quality in the attacking third.
Absolutely incredible. pic.twitter.com/HTrT4HzYpX— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) February 23, 2020
In just three games, Fernandes has already made such a difference, although it is not just about him. Sunday also saw the return of Scott McTominay to the bench after recovering from injury, while Fred has found a rhythm and even Nemanja Matic is playing well again.
The competition for midfield places has squeezed Lingard and Pereira out of the equation. Paul Pogba, absent for most of the season, is also not currently part of the equation. If he stays, which remains up in the air, competition will be tougher still, while United are expected to pursue James Maddison or Jack Grealish in summer. On top of that, 90min has been told there is confidence of landing winger Jadon Sancho as he prepares to leave Borussia Dortmund.
Maddison or Grealish would add attacking quality to central areas, while Sancho would solve United’s problem position on the right wing. Both roles are where Lingard and Pereira have been tasked with making a difference and largely failing to make the desired impact.
Fernandes has already proven the kind of quality that United are still capable of buying. As that continues this coming summer and beyond, there is simply no room for players who lack it.