Who would have thought on transfer deadline day that Odion Ighalo would be worthy of the Manchester United jersey? Not many did, with everybody quick to write off the 30-year-old as a has-been – having spent the last three years in China. But, now, the Red Devils striker appears increasingly likely to stay at Old Trafford permanently.
On transfer deadline day, Ed Woodward was a busy man.
He had been put under pressure to sign a new striker by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just 48 previously, with the Manchester United manager expressing a public desire to bring one in.
Initially, Woodward got Bournemouth on speed dial. A first bid for Josh King was laughed off by the Cherries, before a second one was submitted. A third one never arrived.
And then the United chief got to work, bringing in Ighalo on loan.
Fans, club legends and pundits weren’t happy. They all had the consensus that the 30-year-old wasn’t good enough to make his mark in the Premier League having spent the last three years in China.
He was written off right from the off. But, in the time since, he’s been a revelation.
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On the pitch, he’s been impressive. Four goals in eight matches shows the former Watford star has maintained the same level of threat that he possessed during his time in England before at Vicarage Road.
There was also his extraordinary touch against Manchester City that paved the way for Scott McTominay’s sublime long-range effort.
And, away from the pitch, Ighalo has been well-received too.
The fans who slagged him off at first aren’t the ones who travel to games on match days. Those fans who pack out Old Trafford and stadiums home and away always give players a chance – and seldom turn on them.
Ighalo’s new team-mates like him, too. He’s become popular in the dressing room, described as having a likeable personality.
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And it’s increasingly likely that United will turn his temporary stay into a permanent one come the summer transfer window.
But those who believe he’d be signed to do a job for years could be wrong.
Because United may actually sign Ighalo as a temporary stop-gap before going for Erling Haaland in 2021.
The Norwegian said no to the Red Devils back in December, leaving the club’s striker search in chaos at the same time.
But with the player’s release clause of £59million due to kick in in a year’s time, United could make their move.
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Solskjaer likes Haaland. As a player and as a person.
He’s also particular. The Norwegian has a specific type of player in mind for his United rebuild and the Borussia Dortmund teenager fits that profile.
Timo Werner will be difficult to sign. He’s liked by the Red Devils but his talking up of Liverpool suggests he’s got a Merseyside move on his mind.
So too will Moussa Dembele, who is also understood to be a Chelsea transfer target going into the summer.
It’s not unfeasible, therefore, that United will sign Ighalo permanently to bide them time.
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