There was a hive of activity at Old Trafford in late January as they hurried to negotiate and then finalise the paperwork on their latest signing. This would turn out to be Odion Ighalo, who is joining United on loan from the Chinese team Shanghai Shenhua until the end of the season.
Ighalo later admitted that he took a pay cut to get the opportunity to play for the Red Devils, who he has been a supporter of his entire life. While it may be the dream opportunity for the Nigerian striker, is his presence in the United squad going to help them resolve their problems?A Bad SeasonHaving slipped down the table in recent weeks, United are now 6th favourite to make it into the Premier League’s top 4 this season. They had been sitting in the middle of the table going into the winter break, but have since climbed back up to 7th.Competing for a top 4 space is an unusual place for United to be, given that they are the most successful club in the Premier League. Yet this year, it seems like it may be a struggle for them to even get a place in the Europa League.Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not had a good run this year, with less than two thirds of the goals scored by table topping Liverpool, and twice as many put in the United net. This has left them with a goal difference of just 9, on par with 5th place Tottenham Hotspur.Former Liverpool player, Jamie Carragher, predicted this problem in October when he told Sky Sports that United have a weakness up front.
Can Ighalo Help Ease the Woes?
Things didn’t get off to a great start for the Nigerian, who was left in the UK while the other United players headed to Malaga for some training in the warmer weather. Unfortunately, Ighalo was left in the UK as club officials had been concerned he would be denied re-entry to the country due to his time spent in China. He was able to play in the game against Chelsea though.Ighalo is a proven goalscorer. During his time in China, he scored 36 goals from 55 appearances with Changchun Yatai and 10 goals from 17 while at Shanghai Shenhua. He also managed 33 from 82 while playing for Watford between 2014 and 2017. Ighalo was also the top scorer in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Success at Old Trafford will rely on his ability to replicate and build on this performance for United.During the game against Chelsea on 17th February, Ighalo spent the full 90 minutes on the bench, but was brought on in stoppage time. With just 5 minutes of gameplay, Ighalo managed a shot at goal from the centre of the box, but it was saved by Chelsea’s keepers Willy Caballero.A goal in his debut game would have been an even bigger dream come true for Ighalo, who would have had a psychological boost from it. That said, he shouldn’t be too disheartened given that he managed an attempt in the short time he had on the pitch.It’s still too early to tell whether Ighalo will play a major role in turning the tide for Untied, but the early signs have been promising.A Long Term Solution?Ighalo is currently only on loan to United until the end of the season. However Solskjaer has hinted at the possibility of retaining him permanently if he manages to impress over the coming weeks.It will therefore be up to Ighalo to grasp every opportunity he’s given and knock as many goals in as he can. Motivation doesn’t seem to be a problem for him, and he has also demonstrated that he has the talent. The key will be pulling it all together, and being able to work with the others in the squad to get the job done.The job might also be a little easier for Ighalo and United, as the Top 5 might be enough. With Manchester City receiving a ban from UEFA tournaments, it is likely that the 5th place team will be making it to the Champions League next year.