Odion Ighalo: From Left-Field Signing to Wanted Man - Season Highlight

Robbie Walls
Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images
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As the hours and minutes ticked away on deadline day, Manchester United were seemingly no closer to confirming the signing of a much-needed striker.

Despite the club securing the services of Bruno Fernandes after another long, drawn out transfer saga, there were murmurings of discontent among the fans who wanted more. One signing would simply not do.

Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg / Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

To make matters worse for Ed Woodward and co., their high profile chase of Erling Braut Haland - albeit alongside other clubs - ultimately failed, as the Norwegian moved to Bundesliga challengers Borussia Dortmund, and well, you know the rest.

As the transfer deadline approached, the mention of Odion Ighalo to Old Trafford began to circulate. Surely the former Watford man would not be moving to Manchester? Right?

Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League / Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Yet, despite the inevitable mockery from rival fans on twitter as well as from pundits, the signing of Ighalo seemed to make a lot of sense. Despite having played the last few seasons in China, the Nigerian had continued the good goalscoring form that he had shown in his earlier spell at England, and - perhaps more importantly - he was a devout United fan and desperate to play for the club.

As the loan signing was announced - cue more mockery - his desire to play for the club was immediately apparent, as well as the fact that he even took a pay cut to join the club. He's only on £100,000 a week now - how generous.

While the 30-year-old can do little to change the exorbitant nature of modern football, he had the chance to aid United's end of season run in. And he's certainly taken his chance.

While maybe not the world class striker many fan desired, Ighalo is certainly good enough to push the other players around him. His knack of arriving in the box at the right time has been apparent in the early stages of his United career, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has waxed lyrical about having a striker with Ighalo's poaching instinct.

His goals against Derby, Brugge and LASK have all represented different facets to his game, with his goal in Austria in particular a goal of real quality - albeit with a lack of fans to celebrate it.

Equally, his skill at retaining possession higher up the pitch has already been evident, something that has been sorely lacking at the club since Zlatan Ibrahimovic - best not to mention Romelu Lukaku's first touch.

FBL-EUR-C3-LASK-MAN UTD
FBL-EUR-C3-LASK-MAN UTD / GEORG HOCHMUTH/Getty Images

With the arrival of Fernandes seemingly sparking a United revival, Ighalo has also brought his own sense of enthusiasm and purpose to a squad that has often lacked consistency. For both players, their desire to play for the club is overwhelmingly obvious and is a sign of the improved recruitment that has taken place this season.

Rather than fall into the trap of making moves for the likes of Haland and Matthijs de Ligt - both of whom were carted around Europe by their agent Mino Raiola - the club have tried to embed a philosophy of signing hungry players who actually want to be at the club and know what it means to play for the Red Devils.

While Ighalo may not be a long term replacement for Lukaku, his signing may turn into astute business - particularly with the uncertainty of what the summer transfer window will be like.

You only have to look at the problems Jose Mourinho has had at Spurs trying to find a backup for Harry Kane, to see the brilliance of Ighalo's acquisiton.

After the early criticism of his signing, the situation has developed so quickly that there is even question marks over whether the club will be able to keep hold of him. Former Nigerian international Abdul Sule even claimed that Europe's top clubs could be after the striker, while his parent club Shanghai Shenhua will also look to tempt him back to China.

To see Ighalo not at Old Trafford next season would be a surprise, yet it is testament to his early form that rumours of potential interest have emerged.

It remains to be seen if the forward can continue that form if and when the season resumes, but he has quickly endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful - a place where better players than he have crumbled.

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