There was plenty to talk about after Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle United.
Cristiano Ronaldo made his much-anticipated homecoming and bagged a match-winning brace. Not to be outdone, Bruno Fernandes scored a beauty from outside the box that will get plenty of consideration for Premier League Goal of the Month. Paul Pogba continued his fine form, adding two assists to his ridiculous early-season tally of seven in four matches. On the other hand, the defense continued to look shaky as the decision not to buy a better holding midfielder could come back to bite them.
Then there was the guy who scored the fourth goal in the dying moments of the match…
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the transfer window was a deal that didn’t happen. Jesse Lingard seemed set for an Old Trafford exit, with West Ham looking like his most likely destination. Lingardinho had sparkled there while on loan last season, scoring nine goals and providing four assists in 16 appearances. With the arrivals of Jadon Sancho and Ronaldo, his opportunities were likely to be limited this season, so a move away seemed like the best thing for everyone.
But then the transfer deadline came and went and Lingard remained a Red. There were conflicting reports with some saying Lingard wanted to fight for his place at United while others claiming West Ham had been priced out. Lingard seemed to show his hand this week, rejecting a new contract offer from United amid reports he would reevaluate his future in January. At that point, he would be in the last six months of his contract, which means he could sign a pre-contract with any club that was interested or pressure United to agree to a cut-price sale, possibly back to West Ham. According to ESPN, Lingard was willing to sign a new deal but wanted assurances from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he would get playing time.
Maybe Ole would be wise to give it to him. The season is still young, but it looks like this United team is going to have to score a lot of goals if it wants to have any shot at winning the league. In that vein, Lingard seems to have picked up where he left off last season. Earlier this week, he scored two goals while on international duty (granted, they both came against Andorra). Meanwhile, his finish in close quarters against Newcastle, which was his first goal for Man Utd since the Mourinho Era, was quite impressive. Lingard now has 10 goals in his last 18 league matches — a better record than Anthony Martial (seven goals in his last 40 appearances).
With Jadon Sancho looking like he might need some time to settle into the Premier League, Solskjaer might not have a choice but to give Lingard a run with the first team. The former Dortmund playmaker looked completely overwhelmed against Wolves two weeks ago. While he exerted a bit more influence against Newcastle, he still lost possession a lot and seemed indecisive at times. He’ll need time to settle in, although being around Ronaldo will surely help.
Time will tell whether Saturday’s goal was the start of an unlikely second act for Lingard at Man Utd or his last hurrah. We’ll probably learn soon enough. After all, January is just around the corner…