Jesse Lingard has joined West Ham on loan

Jesse Lingard: Can West Ham loan reignite Man Utd's forgotten England hero?

In 2018, the career of Manchester United and England regular Jesse Lingard could hardly have been in a better place. Having sharply tailed off since, West Ham have handed him a lifeline.

The 28-year-old midfielder has fallen down the pecking order at Old Trafford and is yet to appear in the Premier League this season.

He has not started a league game since New Year's Day 2020, making only three appearances in total this term.

“I’m excited. It’s another new chapter in my life," said Lingard after signing for the Hammers.

“Nothing is guaranteed but I’ve come here to work hard and help the team and bring my experience. That’s the main aim. I just want to enjoy my football and get back playing again and get my feet back on the pitch.”

What has happened to Jesse Lingard?

When Lingard stepped off the plane at Birmingham Airport in July 2018 with the rest of the Three Lions squad, they were greeted as heroes.

Gareth Southgate’s side may not have brought the trophy back from Russia, but in becoming the first England men's side to reach a major tournament semi-final for 22 years, and the first ever to win a World Cup penalty shootout, they had defied pre-tournament expectations and more importantly captured the hearts of a nation.

Like so many of that squad, for Lingard, at 25-years-old, it should have been a launching-off point, the platform from which he would blossom.

But he is far from in the minority when it comes to his career stalling, or even declining, since English football's unforgettable summer.

Jesse Lingard on England media duty at the World Cup

The plight of that England squad since Russia provides useful context.

I would suggest that only seven of the 23-man squad, and just four of the starting XI, have unequivocally taken the 2018 World Cup in their stride: Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Nick Pope.

That is a very low strike-rate.

Of the players who have struggled for form there are Kyle Walker and John Stones, both of whom have recently rediscovered their mojo - especially the latter - in a resurgent Manchester City team.

Kieran Trippier needed a move to Atletico Madrid to get himself going again, World Cup breakout star Ruben Loftus-Cheek has had to move on loan to Fulham having seen his career progress blocked, while for penalty hero Eric Dier it was Jose Mourinho's arrival at Spurs that triggered a turnaround in fortunes.

Danny Rose and Dele Alli haven't been so lucky.

This cannot all be coincidental. Perhaps being part of an England team that reached the semi-finals of a World Cup for the first time in almost 30 years takes its toll, the sheer emotional upheaval of it.

Whatever the reason, a slump in performances has not been uncommon. Most have needed a change to be jolted out of it.

How good is Jesse Lingard?

When Jesse Lingard was named in the England XI to start their World Cup opener it surprised no-one. He had become a fixture in the team.

Since then, though, the midfielder has been talked about in pretty disparaging terms.

Jesse Lingard's 2017/18 Premier League stats

What is consistently forgotten is just how good he was - his form for Manchester United justified selection for England. People forget because it's a scenario that is very difficult to imagine right now.

His role in the United midfield was crucial to them finishing as runners-up to Manchester City in the 2017/18 Premier League, an achievement Jose Mourinho later described as the greatest of his managerial career.

Lingard scored 13 goals and provided seven assists in all competitions that season.

What is Jesse Lingard's position?

“I’ve seen him play as a young boy, when he was still a wide player on the right, and I’ve seen him play off the left,” said David Moyes after Lingard agreed the move to West Ham.

“He’s played for England as a number 10, he’s played for England as a number eight, and I actually think if we needed him as a false nine, he could do that as well.

“We’re bringing in that versatility. I’ve wanted to try to get an energetic team at the moment and Jesse has been known for his work-rate and effort, so I think he’ll fit in nicely with what we’ve got.

"I hope he brings us a little bit of quality, too, and a winning mentality from Manchester United.”

That versatility Moyes references must make an in-form Jesse Lingard a manager's dream.

At Old Trafford, he has been used in every midfield and forward position other than as a holding player in front of the back four, even playing as a wing-back under Louis van Gaal.

During England's World Cup campaign both he and Dele Alli were used as what Gareth Southgate described as "eight-and-a-halves."

That probably best sums Lingard up. He does not quite have the quality to be a true, creative number 10, nor possess the all-round game to be a box-to-box number eight - he's somewhere in between.

He tends to slot in to the role that is most needed dependent on the strengths and weaknesses of his team-mates.

Versatility is great for a manager, but in Lingard's case it has undoubtedly prevented him from ever properly defining a role for himself.

Perhaps a move to West Ham will give the chance to do exactly that. Judging by his new manager's comments, though, I wouldn't be so sure.

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