David Moyes is reluctant to overstate expectations about West Ham. He made a joke late on Wednesday night when reminded that they are now two points off fourth-placed Liverpool.
The stance will be hard to maintain if Jesse Lingard continues to add silk to the team’s steel like this.
Lingard is a classic signing for Moyes – a manager who always wants a work ethic and to know precisely what he’s getting when he’s spending someone else’s money. But a debut like this was beyond even his expectation.
Jesse Lingard made a dream start to his debut
The two goals were just a part of the story, though both equally well despatched. There was promising evidence of an effective combination with the Michail Antonio.
It was Antonio who provide both of the 28-year-old’s goals – first picking Lingard out on the left hand side of the box for a first-time finish early in the second half, then threading a ball into space ten yards out near the end.
But more generally, Lingard sprinkled the creative star dust which can make West Ham more than the well organised, highly competent and balanced team they have become under Moyes.
‘My biggest concern was not his fitness but match sharpness,’ Moyes said of Lingard, after throwing him straight in after the loan move from Manchester United.
‘But I knew he had been working hard at Manchester United. He helped us play better. That’s the level that has made him an England international. I hope he can get back to that level.’
England manager Gareth Southgate was present on Wednesday night. ‘If he keeps that form up it might make Gareth come knocking for him,’ Moyes reflected.
From the start, Lingard looked every bit the player who had been waiting since New Year’s Day last year to start a Premier League game again, chasing down possession, playing with his head up and frequently finding space as West Ham dominated.
Villa had their moments in the first half, which was full of enterprise and ambition from all quarters. Ollie Watkins curled a shot against the outside of the right post after an error from Craig Dawson had allowed Jack Grealish to attack the left flank which is his private fiefdom here and supply the striker