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Two-goal Ighalo warms his way into United hearts

6 March 2020

Odion Ighalo did more than strike twice for Manchester United in last night’s 3-0 defeat of Derby County at Pride Park in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The January loan signing went a long way in proving the doubters wrong as he grabbed his third goal in two starts, after opening his account for his new club in the Europa Cup last week.

Watch the highlights below.

Many United fans and many Nigerians questioned the wisdom of bringing in the former Watford player from China. The concerns were not about the coronavirus, but more about whether Ighalo was good enough for England’s biggest club. Many of those fans are now happy to eat their words.

He may not be the marquee signing that United fans were expecting , but what is there not to like about Ighalo?

Ighalo has not only made his boyhood dream of playing for United come true, he’s become a manager’s dream too. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer said after the game about his loanee: “He should have had a third! Of course when you’ve got strikers you want them to be happy and confident going into the next game and we’ve got a big game on Sunday. He’s come in here and of course we’ve still got a few injuries and Anthony [Martial] has struggled a little bit lately with some injuries so it’s great to have Odion to call upon and he’s a different type of striker. He holds it up well and he scores. For the first one tonight, the ball’s underneath him, not many strikers could dig that out.”

It’s mutual appreciation between Ighalo and Solksjaer, a former striker himself.

United have not lost in nine matches since Ighalo joined them in January and he is building up a great affinity with their fans, who chanted his name several times during the game. He said after the final whistle: “They’ve been great, not only about today. Since I came here, the support I’ve been getting from the fans is amazing. I want to thank them for their support, not for only me but for the team. Even though some games we don’t play up to our level but they’re still chanting, cheering us on to victory. I’m very happy and I thank them, I want them to keep doing that on Sunday. It’s going to be a massive game, let’s cheer us to victory again.”

Sunday’s derby with Manchester City is crucial for United’s top four ambitions and it remains to be seen whether Solksjaer gives Ighalo another start or throws him on as an impact sub. Former Leeds and Liverpool winger said on Sky Sports last night that Ighalo “has hit the ground running” and “holds the ball up well”. Steve McClaren, who was Alex Ferguson’s assistant coach for several years at United, added that Ighalo has given the team “a focal point” in the attack, something that they have been missing for some time.

The likelihood of Ighalo’s loan being made permanent in the summer increases with each performance like last night’s. John Ogu, Ighalo’s former international teammate seems to think so.

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