With Anthony Martial misses Manchester United’s Europa League Match against LASK, the Nigerian could be Crucial for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
When Odion Ighalo’s name began filtering on January transfer deadline day – with only a couple hours before the window closed – many questioned what Manchester United were thinking.
Former professionals and pundits slammed the decision to make the prior Watford striker on loan before the end of the year and debated why a 30-year-old, who hadn’t played a minute of soccer for almost eight months and was plying his trade in China because of 2017, was making a move to Old Trafford.
The move was viewed within the club as a essential move that made sense to attempt to fill the void left by Marcus Rashford, who’s sidelined with a back injury, as United attempt to secure a top-four place in the Premier League and advancement in the cup competitions. The thinking was that a fixed-rate loan movement represented great value for a participant with Premier League experience and the forwards is already demonstrating his worth.
With seven appearances, including two starts, and three goals, the on-loan centre forward has already had an impact. Those fans who were unsure about the coming of the prior Nigeria international will have been heartened by his conduct both on and off the pitch.
It’s been no secret that Ighalo is a lifelong enthusiast. He celebrated on the touchline during United’s league triumph over Chelsea last month, as Harry Maguire’s header doubled the lead to secure an important three points, and further endeared himself to the United loyal in addition to his manager. The Norwegian has talked about the mindset of his players and the value of ‘getting it’ and there can be no doubt that Ighalo has that spark Solskjaer is later.
He made a seven-minute cameo at United’s Manchester derby victory at Old Trafford on Sunday but he left an immediate impression with two recoveries, over 83 percent passing precision and a smart flick that led to Scott McTominay’s goal. He was strong, determined and his work rate was imperious. If his previous six appearances hadn’t justified the deadline day move those couple of minutes vindicated why United were correct to create that last-minute loan deal with Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.
Solskjaer has already spoken about the possibility of earning Ighalo’s move a permanent one but the forward has the chance to guarantee cult hero standing before his loan spell ends in the summer.
With Anthony Martial ruled from this Europa League last 16 first-leg clash against side LASK on Thursday night – with all the knock he picked up when he slipped into the article against Manchester City on Sunday – it might pave the way for Ighalo’s third start. He’s managed three goals on his past two starts against Club Brugge and Derby and will be itching to add to his tally in Linz.
United enter the two-legged knockout tie as favourites but it will not be a simple job despite Solskjaer’s side now being in fine shape and on a 10-game unbeaten run, their longest since the ex-striker first took the reins. LASK sit six points clear at the peak of the Austrian Bundesliga and have surrendered only 11 goals in all competitions this season.
United are the side but have to be written if they are to have an advantage back to Old Trafford for the second leg next week and Ighalo could be crucial to that. In the group stage game against AZ in October, another game United were heavily backed to win, they failed to muster a shot on goal. Things have improved since then but that drab night will act as a reminder to Solskjaer and his team going into Thursday night’s fixture.
Ighalo has shown composure in front of goal that has been lacking during that group stage match. Against Derby, on his next start for the club, he was clinical. Four shots, three on goal and two goals. Any striker in any league in the world would take that attack rate.
His work ethic and enthusiasm to be successful in addition to his nature and club allegiance have made Ighalo a firm favourite for lovers. But if he could prove to be instrumental in the last few games of the year’s Europa League campaign and helped secure Champions League football for next season, the striker, who was able to spend his lunch money watching United, could write himself into the history books once and for all.