When Jesse Lingard’s loan move to West Ham was confirmed, it was one met with a fair sense of derision.
Completely frozen out of the Manchester United picture, the midfielder had become a forgotten man.
From being an integral part of both United and England’s squads, Lingard’s career had hit a speed bump, with 18-months between Premier League goals.
And with his contract set to expire at the end of next season, joining the Hammers looked to many, the final nail in the coffin of his Old Trafford stay.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, publicly at least, refused to close the door on a dramatic return, if he could rediscover his form in East London.
However, few could have really expected just how quickly his confidence and form would return. After eight games of his spell with David Moyes’ side, the stats speak for themselves.
His wonder goal and assist against Wolves mean he has now registered 10 goal involvements since his debut for the club at the start of February.
At Molineux, Lingard looked every inch a top-class Premier League player, ripping Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to shreds in a memorable first-half display.
It’s simply the latest in a string of showings that have left West Ham firmly in the race for a Champions League finish.
Unsurprisingly, Moyes is keen to bring him back to the London Stadium at the end of the season.
Reports have claimed they will launch an approach to sign him permanently this summer, but it will cost exponentially more than a proposed deal would have done just three months ago.
Cleverly, Man United bosses refused to put any clause in his loan deal to turn the move long-term, leaving the Londoners with some tricky negotiations ahead.
Had West Ham secured that option, a move would be a formality, but Solskjaer’s side can now demand a hefty asking price for what is a much more saleable asset.
“He’s a really good player, he’s going to have a great career and to be fair, Manchester United sent him out to West Ham to, one, boost his career, maybe with the thought of increasing his price tag,” Gary Neville said, following the win over Wolves.
“If Jesse wants to play, which he does want to play, you can see, then he’s going to need to leave.”
If he remains with the club, Solskjaer is set to reclaim a very different player to the one that left in January. Or if he does decide to leave it can go some way to funding their own transfer plans.
Either way, that decision now looks one of the shrewdest in the entire window.
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