By February 1, 2020, Odion Ighalo was a Manchester United player, though the deal may have been sealed a day earlier.
Ighalo had a good Africa Cup of Nations for Nigeria’s Super Eagles and had previously done well in the qualifiers for the same AFCON and World Cup of 2018, but did Manchester United really want him? Would they get him?
They eventually did get their man and according to www.ManUtd.com on February 1, 2020, “Manchester United can confirm that Odion Ighalo will join on loan from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua until the end of the season.”
They described him as a life long supporter of the club who was brought in to bolster their squad for the second part of the campaign “as the club competes in the Premier League, UEFA Europa League and Emirates FA Cup.”
Coach of the club, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer also explained to the surprised media in the UK why he went for Ighalo.
“Odion is an experienced player. He will come in and give us an option of a different type of centre-forward for the short spell he’s staying with us.
“A great lad and very professional, he will make the most of his time here,” Ole told www.ManUtd.com.
Favour over Labour
It was not a move that many people expected and Ighalo who went on twitter to write, “Favour over Labour” was very excited regarding the move.
“It has been crazy. Let me first of all say I am happy to be in Manchester. This is a great opportunity for me,” Ighalo said on arrival in Manchester.
“I am grateful to God and my agent and to my coach who gave me this opportunity to be here. I am happy to be here to work hard with the team and finish very well.
“It is a dream come true because since I was a kid I had always dreamt about Manchester United. This is reality now so I can’t even say much now until I get started,” Ighalo enthused.
The man, Odion Ighalo
Ighalo began his professional career in Nigeria with Prime FC and Julius Berger, before sealing a transfer to Norwegian side Lyn in 2007.
He moved to Udinese in Italy and then had loan deals at Granada (twice), Cesena and Watford in the Premier League.
While at Watford, Ighalo scored 39 goals from 99 appearances across all competitions.
It was his time at Watford that convinced Changchun Yatai to sign him in 2017 and, two years later, in 2019, he moved to Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.
The score card
Eleven months after this move and it seems it has all gone up in smoke.
These days he doesn’t even play and hardly sits on the bench like before.
In his first half season with Manchester United, Odion Ighalo managed 19 games and scored 5 goals. Eleven of those games were played in the EPL, three in the FA Cup and five in Europe.
However, in the current season, Odion Ighalo has had only four games; one in the EPL, two in the League Cup and one in Europe.
What went wrong with Odion Ighalo’s move to Manchester United? It seemed to be all good at first.
Akinbode Oguntuyi, a renowned Nigerian football writer and blogger explained to NigerianFootballer.com.
“Ighalo was not recruited by Manchester United as a player they really wanted, they brought him in as a player they desperately wanted; both are different,” Oguntuyi pointed out.
“He was recruited to fill a temporary hole because they were desperate, and as soon as the cause of the desperate situation passed, he was always going to be surplus to requirements. And that’s what happened to him: he became surplus.
“Ighalo mistaking dream for reality is the second reason the move soured. He had always been a Manchester United supporter and wanted to play for the club, a desperate situation at United and his situation at the time meant that he was perfect for the role United were auditioning for; and his dreams became surreal with the goals he scored in Cup games.
“But we all must wake from our dreams to face reality. Ighalo opted not to.
Dreams die first…” Akinbode Oguntuyi told NigerianFootballer.com.
Odion Ighalo’s move to Manchester United still remains NigerianFootballer.com’s highlight of the month of February 2021.