Ighalo proving his worth to Man Utd

BY SKYSPORTS.COM - Mar 26, 2020 at 3:07pm 100

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From the butt of Deadline Day jokes to banging in the goals, Odion Ighalo has silenced the critics and shown Manchester United exactly what they have been missing. Following reports Ighalo's loan move could be extended, Jack Wilkinson makes the case for the Nigerian's long-term stay at Old Trafford.

When Ighalo joined Manchester United on the final day of the January transfer window social media was awash with disparaging comments, aimed at both the club and their latest recruit. A sign of the times, perhaps, but on this occasion, there appeared to be reason behind the unrest.

Bruno Fernandes' big-money arrival in Manchester the previous day elevated expectations to such a level that the signing of a striker - offloaded by Watford in 2017 - from the Chinese Super League left an understandable sense of anti-climax.

Critics jumped at the chance to highlight the perceived desperation behind another questionable piece of transfer business after United had, not for the first time, failed to move swiftly and decisively in the transfer market to secure more notable targets.

But as the jokes circulated on Twitter, Ighalo quietly went about fulfilling his boyhood dream to play for Manchester United - and in the space of six short weeks, there was only one person laughing.

Ighalo's impact has been both instant and impressive.

Before a ball had even been kicked, the 30-year-old's infectious application drew admiration from his team-mates and manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who knew at the very least he'd made a valuable addition to his squad.

"The best thing about him is his personality," the United boss remarked. And when the time eventually came for Ighalo on the pitch, he proved he had the aptitude to match his first-class attitude.

Just as he looked to have really settled into his groove, the coronavirus outbreak limited Ighalo to just eight United appearances, but in that handful of games he more than left his mark.

Premier League minutes - and, for that matter, goals - have proven tough to come by for Ighalo, but the half-an-hour he has got under his belt has proven to be eventful.

Having nearly marked his top-flight debut for United with a goal, seconds after coming on in their 2-0 victory at Chelsea on February 17, Ighalo's superb hold-up play and back heel laid the foundation for the attack which led to Scott McTominay's strike in the Manchester derby.

But it is in the cup competitions where Ighalo has really come to the fore.

The striker has scored four goals in three starts, the latest of which came in emphatic fashion as he rifled United into the lead against LASK in the last 16 of the Europa League, hours before football was suspended. It was a strike that left Solskjaer purring.

"He had three touches before his fourth was the finish," the United boss said. "All those touches were high quality, but he had to make them to create space for himself. The strike is on the half-volley, great timing, no one would have saved that one so anyone would have been proud of that finish.

"Odion knows his job and what his role in the team is, and he's very good with his back to goal, a great link player. He's got the whole lot really."