Football Features

Odion Ighalo’s “world-class strike” sets the stage for a dominant Manchester United win in Europa League

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:55, 12 March 2020

In a strange night of football, Manchester United beat LASK 0-5 with Odion Ighalo scoring one of the most storming goals of the season.

So many people laughed when Manchester United signed Ighalo. A “Watford flop” who had spent the last few years playing in China, his reputation was well below the calibre of signings United expect.

Then there was the nature of the signing, a desperate lunge late in the transfer window. So no one expected anything from him, and when he couldn’t play at first because of the Corona virus quarantine people really wondered why United had even bothered signing him.

Those kinds of doubts have faded recently, with the Nigerian on a great scoring run. He came into tonight with three goals in his previous two starts, notching his first against Brugge in the Europa League and bagging a brace against Derby in the FA Cup.

So if you were to tell people that Ighalo scored for United in Linz as they scored an impressive away win in the Europa League, they wouldn’t be surprised. Hell, they may not even be too perplexed when you let them know he bagged an assist for Daniel James’ first goal since August.

But then when they actually watch the goal, then they just might have something to say.

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Ighalo’s goal against LASK was a masterpiece, a stunner, a gorgeous display of skill, technique, audacity and power. It was everything Manchester United needed and absolutely nothing that they expected.

Solskjaer has often spoken of Ighalo as “a striker” in the sense that he is an unfussy no. 9 who just gets on with the hard graft of leading the line and is capable of scoring the simple finishes that United can often struggle with when they start Anthony Martial up-front.

But what we saw in Linz, what Ighalo showed us all, was something that even Martial would have been proud to claim. Hell it was the kind of goal Martial dreams of scoring.

With the match approaching the half hour mark, United were building momentum but had yet to score. Bruno Fernandes went on a typically driving run from the half-way line towards the edge of the LASK box. He was running into a dead-end so flipped the ball sideways to Ighalo.

The Nigerian’s first touch with his right-foot was a bit loose, the kind of touch that can kill an attack. Suddenly the ball was moving away from him and goal, but Ighalo quickly reacted and with his left-foot he flicked the ball back to his right-foot.

From there he took one soft touch with his right and caressed the ball onto the turf where it bounced slightly and sat up perfectly for the Nigerian to absolutely hammer it goalward with his left-foot.

This was a picture-perfect swing and the connection was so sweet that the ball arrowed goalward at tremendous pace. Alexander Schlager in the LASK goal had no chance as the ball slammed in off the crossbar and bounced down on the ground.

It was a stunning goal, a world-class strike that gave United a deserved lead and set the stage for an evening of easy dominance out in Austria and has all but confirmed United’s place in the quarter-finals.

The Red Devils absolutely mangled their opponents and it wasn’t just that they scored goals, they scored great goals. James’ delightful cut and finish, Fred’s supreme pass for Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood ricocheting the ball in off both posts and Andreas Pereira’s long range chancer.

All of that dominance and confidence was given to United by their brilliant no. 9, their Nigerian icon who showed he has technique for days to go with his physical prowess. They laughed when Odion Ighalo signed, but the only ones laughing now are Manchester United.