Jesse Lingard Proves He Has A Future At Manchester United
It is not often players receive warm applause from opposition fans, but this is what happened to Jesse Lingard at the London stadium on Sunday afternoon.
When the Manchester United midfielder was brought on as a substitute after 73 minutes large swathes of West Ham fans rose to greet his arrival.
This was their way of thanking Lingard for the incredible impact he made at their club during his four-month loan spell there earlier in the year.
In just 16 games Lingard scored 9 goals, provided 5 assists, won the Premier League’s Player of the Month award for April, and helped propel West Ham up the table and into this season’s Europa League.
There remains a mutual respect between Lingard and West Ham for he acknowledges how this time helped revive his career and give him the confidence to fight for his place back at Manchester United.
On Sunday when he scored a late winner for United he reacted by not wanting to celebrate against his former club.
As he jogged towards the ecstatic United fans he made a clear show of being respectful and keeping his emotions in check, until he was cajoled in to a small smile by his celebrating United team-mates.
On the outside he was a picture of calm, but on the inside Lingard’s emotions would have been more out of control.
He had scored on the previous weekend, a nicely taken goal against Newcastle United at Old Trafford, but it had little significance, the fourth goal in a 4-1 rout.
Whereas this goal against West Ham was hugely important, converting a mere point in to three crucial points.
In this moment Lingard’s decision to remain at United this summer appeared to be vindicated, and he could now look to his immediate future with greater optimism.
When he returned to Old Trafford in May, it was thought to be only a matter of time before he moved back to the London stadium on a permanent basis.
West Ham had been expected to quickly secure his signing, but as the summer dragged on the two clubs could not agree on a fee, with West Ham wanting to pay around £25 million, and United holding out for nearer £30 million.
But it was during this stalemate that Lingard began to think more and more about staying at Old Trafford and proving he was worth a place in the squad.
He is a United fan, has been a player at the club for nearly two decades now and never wanted to leave. He resolved to make one final push.
Even though United signed two new attacking players in Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, Lingard was confident he would get a chance.
Marcus Rashford was injured at the start of the season, Anthony Martial has been out of form for nearly a year, and Daniel James was sold to Leeds United.
The United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has always had a soft spot for Lingard; he inherently wants him to succeed, which he has proved this season by using him in four of United’s opening six games.
And in this short space of time Lingard has already managed to transform himself from a seemingly unwanted player in to a vital match winner.
While this has been a welcome mini comeback from Lingard, it is still not enough for him. He turns 29 in December this year and doesn’t want to be just an impact substitute on the fringes of the team.
Lingard’s contract expires at the end of this season, the club are keen for him to sign a new one, at the very least to protect an asset, but he wants to prove he deserves it on merit, and to become a regular again this season.