Many wondered whether the 28-year-old, who hadn’t played a Premier League game all season and had not started one since January 1 last year, was actually needed in east London given the options manager David Moyes already had at his disposal in midfield.
Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma are all having good seasons but none, on the evidence of last night, are on Lingard’s level. Moyes has grown frustrated with the lack of goals from his creative midfielders this season, despite West Ham’s stellar form, and knew they needed further quality if they were to stay in the race for Europe.
“I felt we were short in areas where we make chances,” said Moyes. “It is proved last night that we needed him.”
Moyes had no doubts about his new signing’s quality, just his sharpness, and they were dispelled in the opening minutes. Lingard started as he meant to go on in the Midlands. The England international, who appears to have already formed an exciting partnership with Benrahma, was on the ball and driving forwards from the off, testing goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez from range having drifted in from the left after just 15 minutes.
Jesse Lingard on loan to West Ham: In profile
More efforts and chances created would follow before, after the break, everything clicked. Lingard linked wonderfully with Michail Antonio and Benrahma racing forward and, while his two strikes – one on his weaker left foot and another with his right, minutes after Ollie Watkins had halved West Ham’s lead – were aided by poor goalkeeping from Martinez, they were more than deserved for a performance of the highest standards.
Lingard had more shots and shots on target than any other player on the pitch and among his teammates was only out-run by Tomas Soucek, the midfielder who has a marathon runner for a mother. The new man was not just there for the final touch; his work rate was remarkable and appeared to lift an entire side.
West Ham had every reason to be confident even without a new signing, having won six on the spin in all competitions before facing Liverpool on Sunday. But that run ended against the champions as they found themselves lacking in conviction, a flaw that was nowhere to be seen last night and Lingard played no small part in its eradication.
“He helped us play better and got two goals so it was a brilliant debut for him tonight,” said Moyes, who appears to have pulled another rabbit out of the transfer hat.
“We were surprised with how we played on Sunday, disappointingly surprised with how we played on Sunday. Tonight was more like the levels we have played at
“Mick [Antonio] played much better tonight, he looked a bigger threat, and maybe Jesse helped him look better and feel better.”