Jesse Lingard wore the broadest smile throughout a superb night for West Ham United at Aston Villa on Wednesday.
Lingard was handed his first Premier League start of the season, just five days after joining on loan from Manchester United, and he had quite the impact.
The 28-year-old scored twice to help his team on the way to a seventh win in eight matches in 2021 – a victory which took them back to within two points of the top four.
Lingard’s double, added to Tomáš Souček’s opener, swept the Hammers past Villa, taking them to a richly-deserved 3-1 success.
And it was the result, not the goals, which meant most to Lingard.
In training we’ve had that connection as well and I feel like I’ve bedded in quickly, so come the matchday it’s easy to play
“I was smiling before the game, during the game…I just love football and enjoy playing," he beamed. "It’s been a long time. I enjoyed myself, and came out with two goals and three points, which was the most important thing.
“We worked hard as a collective to get the result and we’re just focused on the next game, which is Fulham on Saturday.”
Lingard did not look like a player who had been with the team for less than a week, linking up effortlessly with Michail Antonio - who provided him with two assists - and Saïd Benrahma at the sharp end of the pitch.
For Lingard, the quality of the players around him has made the transition to his new side easy.
“The team has been great with me and I’ve settled in quickly,” he explained. “I know some familiar faces, which has helped, and as long as we work hard on the training ground and on matchday [we’ll get more results like this].
“In training we’ve had that connection as well and I feel like I’ve bedded in quickly, so come the matchday it’s easy to play with Michail. As a team and as a collective we worked hard and that showed.”