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Lingard must hope he does not regret his decision not to join West Ham


T

he London air clearly agrees with Jesse Lingard — which is precisely why his decision not to push for a move to West Ham in the summer remains so baffling.

Two goals against albeit limited opposition in Andorra on Sunday underlined the resurgence that began with his January loan move to the London Stadium, rescued his England career and transformed him from a punchline to one of the most influential players in the Premier League during the second half of last season.

In 16 starts for David Moyes he scored nine goals. Upon his England recall in March, he was the best player on the pitch in a 5-0 win against San Marino.

There was an element of irony in the fact he imitated Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous goal celebration when opening the scoring after 18 minutes yesterday.

The Manchester United great’s second coming at Old Trafford only further limits Lingard’s chances.

In reality, Lingard should be so lucky to think his opportunities are so closely linked to Ronaldo. By the time he made his New Year switch to West Ham he had played just three times that season; twice in the Carabao Cup and once in the FA Cup.

That was a United, remember, without five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo and £73million summer signing Jadon Sancho.

Staying at United feels like a backwards step but Lingard may well have the last laugh. Perhaps he will force his way past Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba for the right to play behind Ronaldo.

Maybe he will dislodge any one of Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood or Anthony Martial on either flank — and if so then England will be the biggest winners of all.

The more likely scenario is that he is pushed to the fringes once more at United, leaving Southgate with no choice but to stick to his edict of leaving out players who are not getting regular game-time at club level.

With the Carabao Cup and memories of this performance still fresh in the mind when Southgate picks his next squad, Lingard should hold on to his place for the October internationals. Perhaps the same applies for November, but as autumn turns to winter it is hard to imagine him being the same player as the one who has oozed such confidence and looked like a man reborn since the turn of the year.


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