The loan signing of Odion Ighalo was clearly done in haste but with the Nigerian international making a positive start to his Old Trafford career, he may pose questions for Manchester United further down the line. An emergency January capture is always going to be something of a gamble but is Ighalo’s time at Old Trafford really destined to be temporary?
The eventual return of Marcus Rashford will clearly limit the striker’s opportunities even further but there may be some good reasons to keep him around.
What an Atmosphere
There has been something of a transformation at Old Trafford in recent weeks and while Odion Ighalo’s arrival coincided with that turnaround, it’s fair to say that fellow new signing Bruno Fernandes deserves the majority of the credit. Having been courted by a number of clubs for more than one transfer window, it’s a little surprising that it took so long for anyone to act.
Fernandes gives the team so much, both in terms of linking through the midfield and scoring at the other end of the pitch. He’s not in the side for his scoring prowess but three goals in his first eight games is a positive return, while his assist for the opening goal against Manchester City underlines just what he can bring to Old Trafford.
Odion Ighalo appears to be a humble man and he is likely to be happy to remain in the background while Bruno Fernandes claims all the headlines. His role at United may be as a fringe player but an opening goal against Brugge and that double against Derby County suggests the striker isn’t just here to occupy a vacant seat on the bench.
Ighalo’s enthusiasm and his almost incredulous disbelief in arriving at Old Trafford have endeared him to the fans. There’s no doubt that the Nigerian has helped to turn round a subdued atmosphere at Old Trafford so what’s next?
Manchester United clearly need to be playing their football on the highest possible stage and that means switching back up from the Europa League. At the end of their first leg, round of 16 tie with Real Madrid, odds on the Champions League from Betfair showed that neighbours and rivals Manchester City were the clear favourites to claim the trophy.
That isn’t a happy thought for United fans but there are genuine reasons why Champions League football can be a reality for next season. That change in form can yet lead to a top-four finish ahead of Chelsea while City’s issues with Financial Fair Play may mean that fifth place will be enough. The Champions League is where Manchester United need to be but would Odion Ighalo play any part in that campaign?
In all probability, Ighalo will be sent back to China at the end of the season but, as a back-up striker, United could do a lot worse.
Admittedly he’s 30 years of age now but a solid striking record, including 39 goals in 99 games in a struggling Watford side, suggests that Ighalo may yet have a longer-term future at Old Trafford.