Jesse Lingard may have been a source for cheap laughs in recent years, but he’s proven everybody wrong since the start of 2021 thanks to a sensational loan spell at West Ham.
Despite not playing a single minute of Premier League action in the first half of the 2020/21 season for United, Lingard managed nine goals and five assist in 16 appearances for the Hammers. That has earned him an England recall and he scored twice against Andorra on Sunday.
Although he’s only managed one brief cameo in the early stages of United’s Premier League season, largely as a result of testing positive for coronavirus in early August, the 28-year-old proved he still deserved to be included in Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad.
While you may think that the quality of opposition is a factor, someone still has to step up and perform. With two goals and an assist, that is exactly what Lingard did.
His first came out of a tight situation in midfield. Picking up the ball from a clever swivel by Jude Bellingham, Lingard spread the ball out efficiently to Bukayo Saka, before seeing the Arsenal man’s cross deflect into his path and sharply bringing the ball under his spell to fire into the bottom corner. A cool, calm and collected finish by someone visibly beaming with confidence.
Lingard then grabbed his second of the match following a positional switch at half time. He collected the ball from Saka and deftly cut inside, effortlessly unleashing a dipping effort into the bottom corner.
Lingard’s Sunday evening was made all the sweeter as he returned the favour and assisted Saka for England’s fourth, crossing fantastically for the winger to emphatically head home. It was a touch of class that applied the cherry on top of the cake.
It sent the message that the 28-year-old shouldn’t be ignored by his club any longer.
With the arrivals of Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, it will inevitably be a nasty task to force his way into the United side but, given what he’s showcased since the start of 2021, Lingard has every right to be afforded an opportunity and will provide crucial depth.
Sunday was proof that his West Ham form will continue with enough opportunities. In more than one position, Lingard demonstrated his finishing capabilities, team-linking abilities and creative qualities – and further earned the right of another chance at Old Trafford.
The next few months also promise to shape the rest of Lingard’s career. 90min understands that, having stayed at United beyond the transfer deadline, he is planning to keep his options open and will make a decision on his long-term future in January, giving himself until then to earn his spot.