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Why Manchester United should sign Odion Ighalo on a permanent deal

Sports Mole argues why Manchester United should sign Odion Ighalo on a permanent deal this summer.

In the aftermath of Manchester United's draw with Huddersfield Town last May, the club's former defender Gary Neville told Sky Sports News that there was "nothing" that he liked about his boyhood team.

"As a group of players, I don't like them. You grow to like teams and you grow to not like teams," said a passionate Neville. "I've never not liked a Manchester United team, I've always thought the team can win, the team can lose, the team can draw, but I really struggle with this team."

There is no question that it has been a difficult period for the club since Sir Alex Ferguson departed, but there is also no doubting that there have been positive signs under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in recent weeks. Indeed, the team are now unbeaten in their last 11 matches, keeping nine clean sheets in the process.

Manchester United's Odion Ighalo pictured on February 27, 2020© Reuters

Last summer's signings Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have all proved to be a success, while classy attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes has lit up Old Trafford since making a mid-season switch from Sporting Lisbon.

And then there is Odion Ighalo. It perhaps wouldn't be unfair to say that it looked to be a rushed and forced signing for United on January transfer deadline day, but there was also a feeling that the 30-year-old was not being given enough respect due to his pedigree in the game.

A record of 40 goals in 100 games for Watford is far from disastrous, while his record in the Chinese Super League - albeit a much lower level - is 46 goals in 72 appearances. The Nigerian is still contracted to Shanghai Shenhua, but there is a feeling that he could join United on a permanent deal this summer.

Solskjaer said as much after the forward made it four goals in eight appearances for the Red Devils with a brilliant strike against LASK Linz in the Europa League on Thursday night. The Norwegian did not confirm a permanent summer deal but also far from ruled it out, and there will be a big decision to make should Ighalo continue to find the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Manchester United's Odion Ighalo celebrates scoring their first goal on March 12, 2020© Reuters

In many ways, he is exactly the forward that United need at this moment in time. He isn't flashy or over-exuberant but does the simple things extremely well. Indeed, his hold-up play in the latter stages of last weekend's Manchester derby was exceptional, and he played a role in Scott McTominay's late strike.

Neville has reiterated the importance of the fans liking the team again on a number of occasions, in addition to insisting that the club need to "cleanse the dressing room". In truth, it isn't difficult to like Ighalo; there is no attitude, no entitlement and no sense that he is doing anyone a favour by being there, which has unfortunately been a big problem with certain players in recent memory.

"I can't open my heart and express how it feels but every day I am living my dream," Ighalo told BBC Sport in a recent interview. He is a supporter living his dream at arguably the biggest club in the world. Some laughed when Ighalo arrived at Old Trafford, but they aren't laughing now, or at least they weren't when he smashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner against LASK on Thursday.

Manchester United's Odion Ighalo celebrates scoring their first goal on March 12, 2020© Reuters

The former Udinese striker is yet to score in his four Premier League appearances for United but has played a part in the team picking up 10 points from their last four league games. He has two goals in three Europa League outings, though, in addition to two goals in one FA Cup appearance.

United are reportedly determined to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund this summer and rather than then look to spend a further £60m+ on another forward, Ighalo seems to be the perfect fit. After all, Marcus Rashford will be back fit and firing, Anthony Martial will have had a full season as a number nine under his belt, and Mason Greenwood will have progressed further having made huge strides this season.

Ighalo is unlikely to force United into breaking the bank, and amid talk of Sancho, Jack Grealish and James Maddison, the Red Devils should certainly be looking to tie up a deal for a player who has unquestionably warmed the hearts of the supporters when they needed it the most.


Should Manchester United sign Odion Ighalo on a permanent deal?

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer inside the stadium before the match on March 12, 2020
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