Jesse Lingard “holds the key” to his own future and will have a string of clubs besides West Ham chasing his signature in the summer.

That is according to ex-Premier League forward Noel Whelan, speaking exclusively after a Football Insider source revealed that Lingard’s West Ham teammate Declan Rice is not Man United’s top midfield target ahead of the summer.

United’s stance on Rice is significant as it means that any move for Lingard would likely be negotiated as a stand-alone deal and not a player-plus-cash structure.

Lingard, 28, has been in electric form since signing on loan in January, scoring eight and assisting another four in 12 appearances.

Whelan insists that transfer interest in Lingard will be frenzied and that it is not a foregone conclusion that he will join the Hammers permanently in the summer.

He told Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs: “He really is top quality. He’s showing his worth and why he went to West Ham on loan, to prove a point to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

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“He’s putting himself now in a really good commanding position about where he wants to go next season and what he wants to do with his career.

“He’s back in the international set-up as well. It’s very hard to leave him out when he’s playing like this. Everything seems to have come at the right time for Jesse Lingard.

“I think he could get more and more expensive with every game. He holds the key to his future.

“It won’t just be West Ham who want him at the end of the season. It’s not a given that he’s joining West Ham.”

West Ham

Lingard didn’t feature for Man United in the league in 2020-21 before moving to East London in January.

He has now fired himself back into England contention and was selected by Gareth Southgate for the March internationals.

In other news, West Ham in pole position to sign 20-in-35 striker.