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Solskjaer outlines Lingard’s importance amid exit rumours

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Jesse Lingard to be an important player for Manchester United, amid rumours of the midfielder being set for an exit from Old Trafford.

England international Lingard endured a frustrating 2019 for his club, finishing the year without a goal or an assist in the Premier League.

The 27-year-old has made 26 appearances in all competitions this season, with a report by the Daily Mail claiming he is now represented by Mino Raiola, who counts Paul Pogba among his clients.

With Pogba’s future uncertain, reports have also surfaced suggesting Lingard could be set to leave United, amid links of a swap plus cash deal for Leicester City playmaker James Maddison.

“Jesse has had his ups and downs as I’ve spoken about before but against Manchester City and Tottenham, [there were] examples of how important he can be for us in difficult games,” Solskjaer told a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s EFL Cup semi-final first leg at home to holders and local rivals City. “We want him back scoring and making assists.

“There’s no one who runs as much, he’s a great trigger in the pressing, a lively bubbly character. I don’t think you see as much social media from Jesse as you used to.

“He’s a player I’ve known for a long time. He’s got his head down and is working hard, getting back to the Jesse I knew.”

United’s hectic fixture list has been compounded by an FA Cup third-round replay, with the Red Devils drawing 0-0 at Wolves on Saturday – failing to muster a single shot on target throughout the match.

However, United impressed in the first Manchester derby of the season, winning 2-1 on December 7 thanks to goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

And though Solskjaer is waiting on the fitness of Martial, Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire ahead of the semi-final derby, he is confident his side can replicate the level of performance they display at the Etihad Stadium.

“We’re going to aim for performances like that,” Solskjaer, whose side beat Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in the match before the derby, added.

“There were two good days against Tottenham and City in a short spell but every game lives its own life. When you get highs like that I’m sure they will look back on it and that’s the Man United we want to see, but we can improve on that one.

“City had Port Vale at home [in the FA Cup], could rest a few. No matter what team [Pep Guardiola] plays it’s going to be a good team and we’ll put a strong team out.

“I can’t give you the team at the moment, because I don’t think the boys know who’s fit and available yet either.

“City are back winning games but form goes out of the window when we play each other. We know they’re a top team. I admire Pep’s team, they’ve raised the bar so much since he came. The standards set are something to aim for.”