Of all the virtual lockdown calls, the most surreal was submitting questions for Jesse Lingard while he sat at his kitchen counter in front of a bowl of pistachios.

Rather than allow face-time with reporters, a pistachios company arranged for a conversation between Lingard, a nutritionist named Nigel and an enthusiastic American lady whose carefree demeanour suggested her house backed onto Venice Beach.

Questions had to be typed into a widget and were chosen selectively. One of the newspaper reporters became so frustrated their questions were being ignored they asked Lingard: "How many pistachios do you eat a day?" The question was relayed verbatim without a flicker of sarcasm. At one point, Lingard said he was 'honoured' to be a pistachio ambassador.

What's more nuts is, since Lingard's last Premier League appearance in July, he has flogged pistachios, released a 'J-Lingz' backpack and had his brand logo tattooed onto his arm. Lingard was omitted from the United league matchday squad for the 15th time this season at Fulham.

Lingard has mustered one league goal in the last two years, not started in the league in more than a year and turns 30 next year. Sheffield United expressed interest in taking him on loan this month and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer discussed it over a glass of wine with Chris Wilder at Bramall Lane following United's 3-2 win last month.

Lingard, and a bowl of pistachio shells
Lingard, and a bowl of pistachio shells

The January deadline is 10 days away and Lingard is hanging tight, hoping for a more enticing offer than from a club clinging onto the Premier League rock face. His alliance with Mino Raiola last year signalled Lingard's intention to leave United but they have parted ways and Lingard is now solely managed by his father, Roy. His brother, Louis, oversees the brand management such as his clothing range, which hemorrhaged more than £200,000.

United ran out of room to accommodate Lingard a year ago. Whenever Solskjaer is asked about the player he gave his reserve debut to, he speaks so positively about Lingard it effectively confirms another squad exclusion.

Lingard has been cut from United's core squad of 22 players (soon to be increased to 23 with Amad Diallo).

An optimist might wonder whether Lingard has a belated impact akin to Teddy Sheringham, restricted to two league starts until April in 1998-99. Sheringham was not just a goalscoring substitute in both of United's final triumphs but a key player in the semis, converting a defeat into a draw against Juventus in the Champions League and disturbing Arsenal's back four in the Villa Park replay.

A Sheringham-style impact seems fanciful, although Solskjaer is mindful of not compromising United's squad depth in a season where their injury record has been transformative. Brandon Williams was the only domestic squad member unavailable for the Fulham trip and Phil Jones could complete a hat-trick of starting three successive months as United's only injured squad member.

"I don't want to go into individuals but we can probably allow one or two more to go out," Solskjaer said when asked specifically about Lingard. "But one of the strengths we have is we have a deep squad, strength in depth. We don't want to give our advantage away by easing off on our players."

United have the Europa League to contend with next month, a competition they have to play eight knockout ties in just to reach the final, and have only just reached the halfway stage of the Premier League. A fixture pile-up is brewing, with the Monday night visit of Everton next month not fixed as it depends on whether United progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

United are saddled with Jones until the summer but Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo are available for permanent deals this month and their valuation is mid-low seven figures. Romero flagged down a coaching staff member on his drive out of Carrington last month to bid farewell and Rojo, earning well in excess of £100,000 and without a United appearance since November 2019, is enjoying barbecues in La Plata, Argentina.

The redundant Odion Ighalo has almost certainly played his last game for United before he returns to Shanghai. Diallo could, in time, marginalise the ineffectual Daniel James, though Leeds have not touched base again since their summer window enquiry. United are open to loaning Facundo Pellistri as part of the next phase of his development and the popular fourth-choice goalkeeper Nathan Bishop has reputedly generated interest from League Two Bolton.

The loan fee would be peanuts.

Possible post-window United squad:

De Gea, Henderson, Grant, Wan-Bissaka, Williams, Lindelof, Maguire, Bailly, Tuanzebe, Mengi, Shaw, Telles, Matic, McTominay, Fred, Pogba, Van de Beek, Fernandes, Mata, Diallo, Greenwood, James, Rashford, Martial, Cavani