A picture perfect debut for Jesse Lingard as the new West Ham loanee scored twice in the Hammers’ 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
The 28-year-old started on his first appearance for the club since joining on loan from Manchester United in the January transfer window and made an immediate impact with a man of the match appearance.
He was lively throughout, making good runs off the ball and linking well with fellow attackers Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio. His energy was high, he looked to play forward as much as he could but he also showed an in-game intelligence that outshone the rest of his teammates.
The two goals sealed all three points for the Hammers and kept them in and amongst the top four race, but it also had some Manchester United fans talking about a potential return to the club already.
But people need to be careful what they wish for. This is the same player that recently went all the way through until the final minute of the last season before scoring or assisting a league goal in a Manchester United shirt.
Between January 2019 and January 2021, Lingard scored just once for the club in the league and turned in a number of poor performances that had fans screaming for him to be moved on.
The romance of an academy player being successful at your club, as a fan, is the greatest thing in football. There’s a reason United fans love Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood so much, or Arsenal fans love Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, or Chelsea fans are so happy with the amount of young talent in their first-team squad.
But it’s also that same sentiment that can often make a team hold on to a player for too long, even when they’re not good enough.
Lingard has had more than ample opportunity to put himself into the first-team picture at Old Trafford and what we’ve seen is the same thing over and over again.
He has a great football brain, his IQ is high and his thoughts are good. He just doesn’t have the ability to execute those thoughts to a high level often enough to make it at a top club. He’s capable of playing one-touch passes and his movement has always been good, but that final pass has always been lacking.
A club like West Ham is perfect for him for that reason. The pressure on him to deliver at an elite level isn’t there, because West Ham aren’t an elite side. Their setup is suited to him because teams are happy to attack against them, whereas for much of his time at Old Trafford even a draw is seen as a good result for the opposition.
With teams leaving more space in behind against them, he will get more chances to make an error but get another attempt later in the game. At Manchester United, you need to take those chances you’re given when teams make mistakes because their approach is likely to ensure those chances are few and far between.
Lingard has an outside chance of making the Euro 2020 squad, with Gareth Southgate a big fan of his. With regular football in a team that suits his strengths, Lingard has found the perfect environment for himself and his style.
United fans should be thankful that he continued to work hard during his time at the club and he’ll now likely make the club some money from a permanent transfer away.
But they don’t need to wish for him to return to the side, that ship has sailed.