Solskjaer: Odion Ighalo's Manchester United Loan Could Be Made Permanent

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2020

SHANGHAI, CHINA - DECEMBER 06: Odion Ighalo of Shanghai Greenland Shenhua and teammates celebrate with the trophy during the award ceremony after the 2019 CFA Cup Final - Shanghai Greenland Shenhua v Shandong Luneng Taishan at Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium on December 6, 2019 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Fred Lee/Getty Images

Odion Ighalo may be more than just a temporary fix for Manchester United's problems at striker. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said the former Watford man, who is on loan from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, could make Old Trafford his permanent home:

United acquired Ighalo on the last day of the January transfer window to help offset issues up front. Those issues relate to a lack of experienced cover behind centre-forward Anthony Martial, as well as an injury to Marcus Rashford.

Ighalo's six-month loan looked like a low-key move, but there is plenty to recommend the Nigeria international. The biggest endorsement of his potential to be a success for the Red Devils comes from his performances for the Hornets during the 2015/16 season.

He scored 16 goals in England's top flight and also helped Watford reach the semi-final of that season's FA Cup, notably netting a goal away to holders Arsenal in the last eight.

Ighalo has since scored 46 times in China. The 30-year-old also proved he can still cut it at international level with some exceptional displays for the Super Eagles last summer:

While he's not as prolific as some, Ighalo has a proven track record of finding the net. Consistency in the box is something United have lacked despite Martial's talent.

The Frenchman has 12 goals to his credit in all competitions, but Martial has scored just once in his last six. Rashford's goals were easing the burden on the former AS Monaco star, but the England international is out for around six weeks with a back problem.

Missing Rashford means an extra burden on Mason Greenwood. The 18-year-old academy graduate has impressed by finding the net 10 times already this season, but he remains a prospect who needs time and patience to aid his development.

Greenwood has been a useful impact substitute, but Ighalo will give United's midfielders a natural focal point to aim for. He is strong enough to be effective in the air but also has the pace and instincts to spin in behind.

Those qualities could be showcased for the first time during Monday's game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It will be Ighalo's initial involvement after precautions taken following the outbreak of coronavirus in China:

Solskjaer has since confirmed Ighalo will be available to face the Blues, per Mark Froggatt of United's official website. It's a game with significant implications for United's pursuit of a place in next season's UEFA Champions League, with Solskjaer's men six points behind fourth-place Chelsea and five behind Tottenham Hotspur in fifth.

Ighalo is also eligible for the Red Devils' last-32 tie against Club Brugge in the UEFA Europa League. If he can chip in with some important goals, both domestically and in Europe, United will be hard-pressed to end Ighalo's stay this summer and overlook the chance to beef up their numbers and talent in forward areas.

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