Man Utd seal last-gasp Ighalo loan
Manchester United moved late on Deadline Day to sign Odion Ighalo from Shanghai Shenhua on loan until the end of the season.
The deal for the 30-year-old, who previously played in the Premier League at Watford between 2014 and 2017, does not include an option to buy.
Ighalo is due to fly to the UK from China, where he has played for the last three years, over the weekend.
He scored 16 goals in 55 Premier League appearances for Watford before leaving for China and will provide short-term cover for the injured England international Marcus Rashford.
Earlier on Friday, United ended their interest in Bournemouth striker Joshua King after a £20m bid was rejected.
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Speaking about Ighalo’s arrival, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “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.”
Ighalo first moved to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai, before he joined Shanghai Shenhua in February 2019.
The striker finished as top scorer in African Cup of Nations qualifying for Nigeria with seven goals, before scoring five at the tournament last summer.
Tottenham made their own late attempt to secure a loan deal for Ighalo on Deadline Day.
Inter Milan also wanted to sign Ighalo, when their pursuit of Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud failed, but the Nigerian had his heart set on a move back to English football with United.
After the home game against Wolves on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, United have a 16-day gap before they play Chelsea in their next Premier League fixture.
United made Bruno Fernandes their first signing of the January window on Thursday for an initial fee of around £46.6m to Sporting Lisbon, with potential add-ons taking the overall deal to £68m.
Analysis: Manchester United back Ole
Sky Sports News’ James Cooper:
“Manchester United play Wolves on Saturday. Ighalo won’t be involved in that game. He won’t even be in Manchester. But then Manchester United have a two-week break before their next game.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he wanted a striker, he said he wanted a goalscoring option. Manchester United have backed him. They have done the talking with a very late smash-and-great raid.”
Analysis: Man United take calculated gamble on Ighalo
Sky Sports’ Ron Walker:
Amid some incredulity that a player who left England as an out-of-form Watford striker more than three years ago has seemingly been earmarked as Marcus Rashford’s replacement while he recovers from injury, there is a certain logic behind bringing in a man who was also sought after by Inter Milan and Tottenham during the January window.
Odion Ighalo knows the Premier League, has scored goals in the top flight and arrives at Old Trafford in good form. He has the sort of turn of pace which will fit in well to the style of football Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to play.
He has quick feet, you won’t find too many defenders outpacing him over the first five yards, and with United keen to play with a pacey front three, he certainly fits that billing more closely than Romelu Lukaku, whose transfer last summer has since been called into question with the club’s lack of depth in attack.
The Nigerian is certainly not of the calibre of many of United’s forward signings even in recent years, but after a 14-goal haul during his one full top-flight season at Vicarage Road, he was linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs in far more glowing terms.
During that 2015/16 season, the Hornets’ first back in the Premier League, Ighalo and Troy Deeney were the main men at Watford, and scored 15 and 13 goals respectively while no one else managed more than two. Ighalo wasn’t particularly clinical in front of goal during that campaign, although he did end with a shot conversion rate of 13.8 per cent, similar to that of Raul Jimenez this season, and only three less than Anthony Martial.
But the following season, he struggled with form and there became a growing feeling he had been found out; he managed only one goal in 14 starts before moving to China in January 2017, already looking a shadow of his former self.
He has since found his way back to form, netting 46 times in 70 games in the Chinese Super League across three years, but the quality of the far-east domestic competition is nowhere near that of the Premier League.
Whether he can prove an effective stop-gap for United looks far from certain but the 30-year-old does have some positive signs on his side. And even if it all falls flat, he’s due to return to Shanghai Shenhua at the end of the season anyway – with little to lose for Solskjaer or the player himself.
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