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.”
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 percent
— Jesse Lingard (@JesseLingard) February 3, 2022
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.”
Rangnick undermined again?
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”.
Pogba back for Man Utd vs ‘Boro
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 in dark over Man Utd future amid Poch links
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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