‘Can Lingard play against United?’
That’s unlikely to have been a search term many would have considered using just a few months ago, even though Jesse Lingard had been cut adrift at Manchester United.
Yet to feature in the 2020/21 Premier League season, the 28-year-old was working desperately hard on the training ground trying to convince Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he was good enough to be given another chance in the first team.
Ultimately, the Norwegian decided – for now – he wasn’t, and Lingard agreed to join West Ham on loan until the end of the season in order to get his career back on track.
Now, just six weeks on from making the move, he can already look back safe in the knowledge that he made the right decision. There is still plenty of work to do, yes, but Lingard has already reinvigorated his career to the point where some consider him to have every chance of getting another shot at Manchester United.
In five appearances in claret and blue, he’s scored three goals and has been so influential in the capital that he was named on the shortlist for February’s Premier League Player of the Month. Not only is Lingard among the nominees, you could objectively argue that he will win the award – given the impact he’s had on David Moyes’ top four chasing side.
His appearance figure will be topped up to six once the Hammers’ game with Leeds is out of the way, before his attention is then turned to Old Trafford on March 14.
Already forced to watch on when West Ham took on United in the FA Cup fifth round because he was cup-tied, Lingard will again not be allowed to feature in the Premier League.
Unlike in many other European leagues, domestic loans between top-flight clubs in England include a mandatory clause that prevents the player in question from playing against their parent club.
It hasn’t always been that way, but the law was changed by the Football Association and Premier League in 2004 after Lomano Tresor LuaLua, loaned to Portsmouth from Newcastle, scored a dramatic 89th winner against his primary employers.
For most, it was hilarious to see a glaring oversight in the paperwork allow LuaLua to get one over the employers who didn’t really want him. But for those of a business persuasion, it wasn’t deemed to be a good thing – and is the sole reason why Lingard won’t be able to take on Manchester United.
Still, he’s got plenty of other opportunities to shine between now and the end of the season. His place as the Hammers’ spritely ‘number 10’, meanwhile, could be taken by *checks notes* 33-year-old Mark Noble.
Quite the difference, eh.