Jesse Lingard continued his sensational run of form for West Ham with a fine solo goal in the 3-2 win over Wolves on Monday.
After collecting the ball in his own half at Molineux, Lingard carried the ball into the Wolves box, surging clear of Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saiss before beating Rui Patricio with a left-footed finish.
Lingard later assisted a goal for Jarrod Bowen, as West Ham won 3-2 to boost their chances of finishing in the Premier League top four, a position they hold with eight matches to go.
The attacking midfielder has nine goal involvements in eight matches (six goals, three assists) since making his West Ham debut on February 3.
Lingard earned an England recall for his impressive West Ham displays in a loan spell that was initially expected to precede a permanent move, either to the Hammers or elsewhere.
When he made a flying start at West Ham, reports initially focused around how his transfer price-tag had increased.
But the continuation of his impressive play means there are now questions over whether he can force his way back into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans at Old Trafford.
It is a scenario that looked highly unlikely two months ago, but one former United captain Gary Neville now thinks has merit.
LINGARD AT UNITED
Lingard was often criticised but had his moments at United, where he came through the youth system.
He scored in their FA Cup final win over Crystal Palace in 2016 and won the Europa League a year later.
Lingard played 33 Premier League matches (20 starts) for United as recently as 2018-19, scoring eight times and adding five assists.
But his playing time continued to decrease from there until he was frozen out by Solskjaer in the first half of this season, not appearing in the Premier League and making only three domestic cup appearances.
Prior to his exit, Lingard did not score or assist a single Premier League goal for United in a period of 33 matches over 18 months.
WEST HAM RESURGENCE
Now, though, Lingard’s nine goal involvements since debuting are tied for the best over that span in the Premier League with Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who himself is having a memorable campaign.
He sits above the likes of other in-form stars like Gabriel Jesus (7) and Bruno Fernandes, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ilkay Gundogan (all 6).
West Ham’s win over Wolves saw the Hammers show off their counter-attacking ability.
Only Leeds United (6) have scored more goals from fast breaks than David Moyes’ side this season (5), with two of those coming at Molineux.
United have been at their best under Solskjaer when they have soaked up pressure and thrived on the counter-attack.
So there is an argument Lingard could fit in with United and just needed a run of matches to get his rhythm and confidence back, boosting his hopes of playing for England at Euro 2020 in the process.
NEVILLE ON LINGARD DILEMMA
Neville believes there can be a role for Lingard at United, though it would come at the cost of not playing week in, week out.
“He does an incredible amount of running,” Neville said to Sky Sports. “It’s what he does. He’s good out of possession and good in possession.
“At Manchester United because there is that expectation of what you need to be, to be a wide player there, he’s always going to get a difficult press.
“But if he was playing in a world-class team, if he was, say, Park Ji-sung 10 years ago playing with Ronaldo and Rooney, doing that supplementary role, then people would be saying he’s perfect for this squad.
“The problem is he was not playing in Manchester United teams as good as that, so he gets a bit of stick.
“He’s a really good player. He’s going to have a great career.
“Manchester United have sent him out to West Ham to boost his career, maybe with the thought of boosting his price tag, but they might be thinking, ‘Actually, we might want him back, he could be a real help to us’.
“If Jesse wants to play, and you can see he does want to play, then he needs to leave, because he’s not going to play every single week for a United team that’s competing for second or first place in the league.
“But if he’s willing to go back there and compete and be the player that Dan James has been for the last few weeks, in and out, then there’s no doubt he can play for Manchester United.”
LINGARD COMPARED TO MAN UTD STARS
Given he did not play for the first half of the season, we are dealing with a smaller sample size with Lingard compared to the key attackers at United.
But Lingard comes out on top of all West Ham and United players with 0.74 goals per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season, above Fernandes (0.56), Edinson Cavani (0.54) and Michail Antonio (0.41).
Lingard (0.38) is on almost the same level as Fernandes (0.39) for assists per game, coming second among both squads in players to feature for at least 500 minutes.
Alex Telles (0.35) and Said Benrahma (0.33) are the others to fare well for assists P90.
At 3.95 dribbles attempted per game, only Marcus Rashford (5.65) takes on an opponent more often than Lingard in that category among United players.
There are three West Ham players who do so more often, led by Benrahma (5.26).
When it comes to created chances, it is one area where Lingard falls slightly short.
Fernandes (3.03) and Luke Shaw (2.26) are well clear of the pack, with Benrahma (1.5) and Aaron Creswell (1.43) coming out best for West Ham.
Lingard (1.15) would rank fifth among United players, which is also where he sits at West Ham.
Overall, Lingard has made a huge impact at West Ham, spearheading an unlikely Champions League pursuit.
His performance levels compare favourably to most of United’s forwards and attacking threats.
It is a move that has worked out superbly for him and David Moyes, but also for United.
They can either welcome back a revived squad player as part of their plans for 2021-22 or cash in at a much greater level than they could have done prior to Lingard’s London switch.
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