Before football froze, Man United were reaping the rewards of their January transfer window activity. They finally landed Portuguese maestro Bruno Fernandes, who has since dazzled with two goals and three assists in five Red Devils appearances, and brought in Odion Ighalo on loan from Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Shenhua.
While Fernandes has been lavished with praise, the deal for Ighalo, who has already scored for the club in the Europa League and FA Cup, was more divisive.
Ighalo not thinking too far into the future
Whether or not the club should make Ighalo’s loan deal permanent has evolved into a fierce debate among United fans but Ighalo himself is determined to stay grounded.
Speaking to Elegbete TV, he said: “There is no offer on the table yet because the season is still on and I’m yet to finish my loan deal.
“I have seen so many tweets about this. I have seen so many people going crazy, [saying] ‘go back to China’, some say ‘stay with Man United’. Have you seen me say a word? I don’t have anything to say.”
So what should United do?
Simplicity is the key for the Nigerian
For starters it is worth noting Ighalo has not really had much of a chance to prove what he is capable of at Old Trafford but has shown moments of promise in the limited game time he has had. His brace against Derby was demonstrative of a player with excellent instincts and an eye for goal – are they not the most important qualities in a striker?
After all, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood supply United with the pace, trickery and movement needed in the final third and Ighalo is a handy alternative, a target-man figure who makes simple look impressive.
Too often United have been let down by players trying to play beyond their capabilities but that is no issue with Ighalo who is a goalscorer – and he knows it. He managed 39 goals in 99 appearances for Watford in all competitions before netting 46 times in the Chinese Super League for Changchun Yatai and Shanghai.
After a summer which saw the club splash out on 22-year-olds Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, signing a 30-year-old on a permanent basis would surely fly in the face of their renewed transfer policy though, right?
Ighalo’s a cheap alternative to other striking targets
On the contrary, signing a player already bedded into the side for a cheaper fee will only strengthen United’s chances of landing mega-money targets like Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish or James Maddison in the transfer window.
Ighalo already took a pay-cut in order to move to Old Trafford and his performances at Watford and cameo at United suggest he feels at home in the Premier League, where his experience, physicality and leadership qualities are invaluable among a group of players still learning their trade.
He is not of the calibre of Wayne Rooney in his prime, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or even Romelu Lukaku but his work ethic and goalscoring ethic are difficult to ignore. In a time where clubs all too often opt for the more convoluted path to success, United are best-placed playing a straight bat with this one and getting a permanent deal done as soon as the window opens.