Football Features

Odion Ighalo: Where Man Utd’s deadline day signing fits into Solskjaer’s style of play

By Oliver Young-Myles

Published: 0:02, 1 February 2020

Manchester United’s search for a striker has reached a happy conclusion as far as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is concerned after the club signed Odion Ighalo on loan from Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day.

The 30-year-old joins United on a deal until the end of the season and although there is no official purchase option in the contract, both clubs are said to be open to reaching an agreement.

Why did Man Utd sign Ighalo? Five things to know…

  • Solskjaer was desperate to sign a striker after Marcus Rashford suffered a double stress fracture in his back during a 1-0 win against Wolves earlier this month which could rule him out of action until April.
  • United had a £20m offer for Bournemouth frontman Joshua King rejected on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported that they had had an enquiry knocked back from Southampton for Danny Ings.
  • Former Manchester United striker Mark Hughes wasn’t too impressed with the deal, however, telling Sky Sports: “My initial thought is that he’s not at the level that Manchester United should be looking at.”
  • One factor behind United’s frantic pursuit of a forward is the club’s ambitions of finishing in the top-four this season. Currently, they are six points away from reaching that target, in fifth.
  • Ighalo scored more league goals (30) than any other player in England’s top four leagues in 2015.

Ighalo’s previous clubs include Prime and Julius Berger in his homeland, Lyn Oslo in Norway, Granada in Spain and both Udinese and Cesena in Italy, but his career exploded into life upon his move to Watford in 2014.

During the 2014-15 season, Ighalo struck up an outstanding partnership with Watford’s talisman Troy Deeney with the pair scoring 41 goals between them – Deeney (21), Ighalo (20) – to fire the Hornets to promotion.

Odion Ighalo scored 15 Premier League goals during the 2015-16 season (Picture: PA)

Ighalo initially coped brilliantly with the step up from the Championship, becoming the first Watford player to hit double figures in the Premier League with 15 goals, including two in a 3-0 win against Liverpool.

After a bright start, though, Ighalo’s form tailed off dramatically as he failed to score in his final 14 Premier League games for Watford despite having 28 shots on goal, prior to his move to Changchun Yatai in January 2017.

Despite his career at Vicarage Road fizzling out, Ighalo will be desperate to make his mark at Old Trafford having confirmed in the past that he supported United as a child while he counts Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole as his footballing heroes.

Ighalo’s style of play – and where he’d fit into Man Utd’s XI

During his time with Watford, Ighalo tended to play on the last shoulder of the opponent’s defence with his strike partner Deeney dropping deeper to link the play.

He also made a name for himself in England for his ‘scoop’ skill which saw him square up defenders before dragging the ball around them to fashion a shooting opportunity.

Quique Sanchez Flores praised his work-rate during his first spell as Watford manager, saying: “It is amazing what they [Ighalo and Deeney] do in defence. They put in so much effort to reduce space and that is why we always defend with 11 players.”

Given Ighalo is a penalty-box forward, his arrival is likely to result in a tactical reshuffle which could see Anthony Martial redeployed on the left-wing and fellow new recruit Bruno Fernandes pushed into a No.10 role to fashion chances.

How Manchester United could line up with Joshua King.

How Manchester United could line up with Joshua King.