Jesse Lingard has revived his career at West Ham and is arguably the signing of the season despite only arriving in January.
The playmaker has spearheaded the Hammers’ Champions League push as David Moyes ‘ men look to land a surprise top-four finish in the Premier League.
Lingard has contributed nine goals in 13 games, all of them coming in his first 10 appearances for the Londoners.
It’s been a spectacular turn in fortune for the 28-year-old who was frozen out at Manchester United after a horrid run of form where he only managed four goals in 40 appearances last season.
His confidence was shot and his career looked to be going in reverse, but a year is a long time in football.
Lingard has not only reached the levels he had shown in his early stages at United, but he has surpassed them as he received a call-up to the England squad in March and now poised for a starring Euro 2020 role in the summer.
United will surely welcome his return at the end of the season, but West Ham believe they can make the move permanent after his sly parting shot at his parent club.
Meanwhile, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Moyes are currently in a war of words over United’s fixture congestion which could end up having a say in Lingard’s future.
Here’s how the whole situation has unfolded.
Lingard’s dig at United
Lingard will be the first to acknowledge his form at United wasn’t good enough, but he also felt slightly aggrieved he wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt considering his previous success at the club – every player goes through rough patches after all.
He insists he came back from lockdown for the conclusion of last season as one of the “strongest and fittest” in the dressing room, but he still wasn’t given a chance – and that carried over into the start of the current campaign.
And Lingard admitted this snub lit a “fire in his belly” as if he had a point to prove when he joined West Ham in January.
He told BT Sport: “First and foremost I’m here to play, win and help the team, so hopefully I can do that and we’ll see where we’re at come the end of the season.
“It’s about playing with a smile on my face and enjoying my football and getting back to the old Jesse.
“During the lockdown, I recapped my best moments playing football – the season under Jose [Mourinho] where I scored all of those goals and went to the World Cup and the season when Ole came in and I started well.
“I started getting that fire in my belly and drive again to go and kick on. It would have been easy for me to fall off and take the easy option out.
“But a person like me who’s been through a lot and knows the game, I can’t just give it up like and I’ll always go out with a fight.
“I came back one of the strongest and fittest (in the Man Utd squad) after the lockdown and I didn’t get my chance that I was waiting on. But the whole time I was there and not playing I was doing extra training and keeping on top of my fitness for when the time was right.
“So for me, it’s about working hard and staying dedicated and I went back to basics.”
Point taken, I guess.
Lingard came firing out the blocks scoring and assisting for fun and looked completely reinvigorated in a West Ham shirt as he would help sustain their top-four charge.
It wouldn’t take long for speculation to grow over a permanent switch to the Hammers and with Lingard and United’s questionable relationship, they feel they have a chance of making that happen.
David Moyes outburst
West Ham landing a Champions League would obviously help them in their quest to sign Lingard.
The financial boost means meeting United’s asking price for the attacker would be more feasible, while Lingard could be tempted with the chance to be the top dog for a Champions League side, instead of potentially being on the fringes for the Red Devils next season.
West Ham are now looking for favours from other clubs to help bridge the gap, including United who take on the Foxes on Tuesday night and then Liverpool 48 hours later.
They might not get it from the Old Trafford side, howeversm who admitted it’s impossible for him to field a full-strength side for both games with their congested schedule of four games in the space of eight days.
And Moyes hit out at league chiefs, worried that it would cause United to drop points against their top-four rivals.
He said: “The Premier League should be answering these questions and tell us why this is the case. There was an awful lot of integrity needed to get the Premier League back up and running during the pandemic.
“Ole can do what he likes. It’s his team and his club. But I don’t know if there was a better way to sort the fixtures out. The Premier League have made that decision, I think Manchester United can always put out a strong team.”
Solskjaer fires back
Solskjaer took exception to the “integrity” comment from Moyes and insists his hands are tied as he looks to protect his players from injuries during this hectic run of games.
He responded: “I wish I could have said let’s go full out in all the games but it’s impossible… talking about integrity in the league and stuff, don’t blame me when I have to make changes because I have to.”
West Ham fans hope this won’t fray the relationship between the clubs in regards to negotiations for Lingard this summer.
But there’s a chance it could and it would be naive to think these type of incidents have no bearing whatsoever when deals can go south for any reason whatsoever.
At the very least, the managers might need to settle their differences and it would probably be in Moyes’ best interest, in particular, to smooth things over to give West Ham the best chance possible to sign Lingard.
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