Although Wilder will reluctantly continue to listen to offers for a player who scored five times in 36 appearances last season, after growing increasingly frustrated by his failure to agree terms, sources at Bramall Lane last night insisted he is determined to handle the situation diplomatically out of respect for Lundstram’s contribution to the Premier League club over the past three years.
Indeed, it is believed United would welcome Lundstram back into the fold if he puts pen to paper while coaching staff have no plans to freeze him out of their preparations for the new campaign - which is scheduled to begin on September 12.
However, with Reading’s John Swift being lined-up as a replacement, Lundstram will be handed a peripheral role during the friendlies United have arranged as Wilder looks to familiarise his successor with the 3-5-2 system which helped them finish ninth in the top-flight.
Previously of Everton and Oxford, Lundstram was invited to commit himself to United during the build-up to Christmas after entering the final 12 months of his present contract. When it became clear those discussions had reached an impasse, Bramall Lane’s hierarchy invoked an option allowing them to retain the former England under-20 international’s services until the end of the forthcoming campaign rather than allow him to leave on a free transfer.
But, barring a change of heart on the part of Lundstram and his representatives, that decision has only parked the problem temporarily. Brighton and Hove Albion, West Ham and Burnley are all known to have cast admiring glances in his direction but United have yet to receive any concrete offers as the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to hit the transfer market.
Sander Berge, who commanded a £22m fee when he arrived from Genk in January, has jostled for position with Lundstram since moving to England. But Wilder has moved for Swift because he believes the Norwegian is more effective in a deeper lying role.