Lingard solves mysteries and makes Woodward an accidental genius
If you step forward 60 yards on a football pitch at full throttle and put the ball in the net but no defender tries to stop you, does it become an incredible solo goal?
This is one of the great philosophical puzzles of our time, one that only a handful of people have tried to solve. To face it, it takes courage and conviction, as well as an extremely complacent opposing defense.
Hatem Ben Arfa courageously tried to provide us with an answer to the question against Bolton in 2012. But with everyone still a little uncertain nearly a decade later, Western hamJesse Lingard’s rejuvenated superstar took the task on his shoulders Monday night at Molineux, advancing valiantly against the perfectly cooperative Wolves backline to provide the definitive answer.
With the scoreboard still blank and just six minutes on the clock, Lingard received the ball in the middle of his half of the field with no one within 15 yards of him.
He turned and, seeing Conor Coady and Romain Saiss obsequiously recoil like a pair of medieval servants who had displeased their king, Lingard knew it was time to give us an answer to this most puzzling riddle.
He sprinted forward, Leander Dendoncker chasing him with the eagerness of a Sunday league midfielder who had warmed up for the game by gulping down a large chunk of crisps with curry sauce and in smoking two Richmond Superkings.
Coady and Saiss continued to retreat, the England defender completely distracted by Michail Antonio’s cross-country run. And the moment Saiss thought, ‘Ah, shit, I should probably do something about it, ‘ Lingard was one-on-one with Rui Patricio.
The Portuguese goalkeeper rushed out, made himself as small as possible, and Lingard hid him in the net to finally put an end to years of thinking and speculation.
THIS. GOAL. ?? pic.twitter.com/omGmUxNuNB
– West Ham United (@WestHam) April 6, 2021
So: If you step forward 60 yards on a football pitch all the way and put the ball in the net but no defender tries to stop you, does that become an incredible solo goal?
The answer, Jesse’s great job has informed us, is no.
We are, of course, facetious. Lingard’s goal was impressive for his athleticism and the calm, controlled finish.
But that was just one part – and not even the best part – of a wonderful overall performance, which kept its heartwarming resurgence and kept West Ham’s Champions League dream alive and well.
And to bring the score to 3-0 before half-time, he offered his best individual moment of the match.
Lingard recovered the ball in his own half, in a position similar to the one he had taken for the first goal. But with five Wolves defenders around him this time around, he knew that going it alone was not an option and that space would inevitably be opened up elsewhere.
Lingard raised his head and sent a deliciously weighted ball at Jarrod Bowen, who burst into the box and hammered a shot past Patricio at his near post.
Lingard with brighter work 👏
He lets Bowen score West Ham’s third goal in the first half!
Wolves have a ⛰️ to climb 😳
– Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 5, 2021
This pass has resulted in four goals and three assists in Lingard’s last five club games.
If the 28-year-old continues until the end of the season, it will be impossible for Gareth Southgate not to take him in the means of transport England use to assemble his team at St. George’s Park for the Euro this summer, completing the 2021 comeback story.
And the longer Lingard’s supercharged loan spell in London continues like this, the better it looks like a case for that well-known master of football’s ruthless transfer market, Ed Woodward.
If Lingard sends West Ham back to the Champions League positions at the expense of Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, Woodward will have shown us that he is the Midas of the market again.
Not only will their main rivals be sidelined from the European top table, left in search of Europa League and Europa Conference crumbs, but United will start next season with one of Europe’s shaped attacking midfielders at their disposition.
As Gary Neville said on Sky Sports after the game: Manchester United sent him to West Ham to boost his career, maybe with the idea of raising his price tag, but they might think, ‘Actually we might want him back, he might be us. ‘a great help. “”
Whether Lingard wants to return there, however, is another matter. In the East End, we ask him the big questions and find the answers every time.