Jesse Lingard joined West Ham United on loan in January very much a forgotten man.
He had made just three Manchester United appearances all season, had not appeared for England since 2019 and had only one Premier League goal to his name since December 2018.
What a transformation. The 28-year-old’s two goals in the Hammers’ 3-2 win against Leicester continued his remarkable form that has seen him become one of the form players in Europe.
Is he about to fire West Ham into the Champions League and has he earned himself a starting slot for England in the summer’s European Championships?
Lingard’s instant impact in Champions League push
West Ham were already sitting on the cusp of the top four when they signed Lingard but his form has helped establish the Hammers as genuine Champions League contenders.
The Warrington-born forward has scored eight goals in nine Premier League games, equalling his previous best season tally – eight in 33 games (2017-18). West Ham have won six of those nine games and lost just one, against leaders Manchester City, to sit fourth with seven games left.
“I’ve got confidence and instinct at the moment,” Lingard said after Sunday’s win. “It is knowing where the players are going to put it. It’s great, every game is like a cup final.”
Manager David Moyes, who Lingard played under at Manchester United, added: “We’ve been surprised by Jesse’s goals. We’ve always known he’s got the ability to create things but his goals have given us something else.”
Since his West Ham debut, when he scored twice in a 3-1 win at Aston Villa on 3 February, Lingard has registered 11 goal involvements (three assists) – two more than any other Premier League player.
And across Europe’s top five leagues, only four players have claimed more – Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (17), Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku (13), Atalanta’s Luis Muriel and Gerard Moreno of Villarreal (both 12).
Former West Ham defender Matthew Upson told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Everything has gone to plan for David Moyes and West Ham. They have been excellent when they needed to be and the difference is that extra quality from Jesse Lingard.
“What a signing he’s been. It’s been brilliant for West Ham and for him personally, it’s been a great move.”
Speaking on MOTD2, former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas, said: “He is having his best season and it is an example of how he feels.
“He has a manager who trusts him, playing in a position that suits him. He is a big player at this football club and he is showing that – he is delivering.
“This is a player playing at the top of his game. When he was at United, he was sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right, sometimes deeper. Was he able to play with such freedom as now? In my opinion if West Ham make it to the Champions League that business of bringing Lingard to the club will be the reason they get there.”
Ex-Manchester United captain Roy Keane added on Sky Sports: “He has turned up at West Ham. Having not played much football, he’s kept himself in shape. Maybe he took his mind off the ball at [Manchester] United but he is a talented boy and has always had it.”
What next for Lingard?
Lingard joined West Ham having not played in the Premier League or Champions League for Manchester United this season.
“It was a tough period, building up to the loan,” he told MOTDx last month. “You train all week leading up to the game and then you don’t get picked.
“It was lockdown and I looked back at old games I played in, with England and Manchester United, and got the fire in my belly again.”
No option was agreed to make the move permanent so Lingard is set to return to Old Trafford this summer. He has just a year left on his contract but West Ham are sure to face competition if they bid to sign him.
Upson added on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m sure after his form this season, he will have plenty of teams looking at him. What a signing it would be if West Ham were able to get him permanently.”
The Hammers hope to be able to offer him Champions League football next season, and Lingard was asked on Sunday if he would want to be part of it.
“It would be a brilliant achievement,” he said. “It would be the first time in [West Ham’s] history and to do something like that would be something special.”
From forgotten man to England starter?
Lingard has already earned a recall to the England squad, playing in all three of last month’s World Cup qualifiers to take his tally to 27 caps.
If he maintains this form, could he start at this summer’s European Championships?
England manager Gareth Southgate was watching at London Stadium on Sunday and he is set to face competition from Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount.
“The Euros would be the icing on the cake,” Lingard added. “It’d make a good comeback story.”
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‘Get him on that plane’ – best social media reaction
Sho: Another game. Another goal for Jesse Lingard. Ridiculous form he’s in.
Bobby Seagull: Can’t believe how impressive Lingard has been since he joined West Ham. He has played with joy, freedom and expressed himself on the pitch, even regaining an England squad place. I really hope he can sign on a permanent deal. Champions League for West Ham?!
Karl: If Jesse keeps this up Southgate can’t just ignore him. Unreal for West Ham at the moment!!
Alexsander Todorov: Jesse Lingard strikes again. Unreal turnaround for him. He’s definitely proven me and many others wrong. Get him on that plane Gareth Southgate.
Matt Bannon: Just shows what happens when you’re made a focus point of a team rather than helping to make someone else the focus point. Well done Jesse.
Daniel Makwa: Love his attitude from being dropped from the United team.