Jesse Lingard put in a man-of-the-match display in West Ham’s win at Wolves on Monday evening as the England international’s remarkable resurgence continued apace.
The 28-year-old has gone from write-off to Euro 2020 hopeful since leaving Manchester United on loan for the rest of the season in January.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at Lingard’s east London reboot.
After moving to the Hammers, the attacking midfielder wrote down a list of targets to achieve during the loan stint – from shots and take-ons to broader, bigger achievements.
Those goals are on a whiteboard in his London apartment alongside another board full of inspirational quotes to fire up a player who has already ticked off some of those targets – little surprise given he is in the form his life.
Not only playing with a smile on his face but with swagger and incision in his game, he has gone from failing to make the bench at United to producing some of the best figures of his career.
Lingard has scored six goals and provided three assists in eight Premier League appearances for West Ham, meaning his goal contribution sits at 1.15 goals per game right now.
His previous top-flight best was a ratio of 0.64 goals/assists per 90 minutes during the 2017/18 season, but that figure and his playing time dropped markedly after that campaign.
Lingard has been an effective player for United since becoming a first-team regular under Louis Van Gaal, but things had gone awry in recent years as off-field matters were compounded by increased competition.
“When I was playing, I wasn’t really fully concentrated,” Lingard told the PA news agency in July. “I was thinking about different things in the back of my head of what’s happening off the field. I wasn’t really mentally right, really, to play even to an extent.”
Lingard said lockdown helped him re-evaluate things and focus on getting “back to the old Jesse”, yet playing time was more restricted than ever when football resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
From playing 1,818 Premier League minutes in 2017/18, he managed just 934 minutes and one goal the following season and this term he did not get off the bench on the four occasions he was named as substitute for Premier League games.
Lingard’s only three appearances for United came in the cup – two in September in the EFL Cup before starting against Watford in the FA Cup in January.
Lingard always believed in his ability to play at the highest level despite a difficult couple of years and knew he needed to be playing regular football at this stage of his career.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave him the green light to leave on loan despite feeling that he could play a part in second half of the campaign at United, saying that he hoped the midfielder would come back “revitalised”.
During Lingard’s spell out of favour at Old Trafford, England manager Gareth Southgate kept in contact with the player – a member of his squad which reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals – and suggested he was best to stay in the Premier League amid January interest from Europe.
West Ham looked the perfect fit and so it has proven.
Few loan deals for experienced players have worked out so well for all parties.
Lingard has injected new impetus into West Ham’s European push and is playing regular football to such a high level that he has been recalled by Southgate.
He was named man of the match against San Marino on his first England appearance in 655 days, then came off the bench against Albania and Poland as he pushes for a Euro 2020 spot.
Lingard’s new lease of life should also work well for United, who had been mocked by some when it emerged in December that they had triggered the one-year extension clause to keep him at the club until 2022.
What happens in the summer remains to be seen but the 28-year-old will keep kicking on and ticking off targets on his whiteboard.