FORMER Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo looks set to play his final match for Manchester United today as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is poised to field him against his former club Watford in an FA Cup match that would be his swansong before returning to China.
Exactly a year ago, Ighalo, 31, was a January deadline day signing for Manchester United, secured on loan from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua until the end of the season. Due to a combination of issues including getting him back to fitness and ensuring he was not affected by the coronavirus, Ighalo did not start any game following his arrival on January 31 until February 27 last year.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic altered things dramatically as the suspension of the league meant Manchester United did not get much use of the striker during his loan spell. When the league resumed, Manchester United made fresh request to Shanghai Shenhua that Ighalo’s loan spell be extended, leading to the striker remaining at the club for a full calendar year.
Ighalo is now due to return to China by January 31 but before doing so he is poised to make one last appearance against his old club Watford in the FA Cup. Solskjaer has confirmed that Ighalo will feature for his side when they square off against the Hornets at Old Trafford this afternoon.
Of late, Ighalo has found game time difficult following the arrival of Edinson Cavani at the club in the summer. Ighalo has made only four appearances for the Red Devils across all competitions this season.
Solskjaer said: “Odion, it’s special for him against Watford. He will be involved, he’s in the squad. He’s been training really well..
“He’s not lost any of his sharpness or his quality. It’s been difficult for him to be out of the squad as many times of course because he did really well up to the summer. This season he’s not had as many opportunities but he’s never let himself down as a professional and a human being.”
Ighalo became the first Nigerian player and the seventh African star to feature for the Premier League giants Manchester United. He originally hit the ground running on his arrival at Old Trafford, scoring five goals in as many appearances, amid several dazzling displays, making him the toast of the fans.
He will now hope to utilise the opportunity to feature against his former club Watford, where he spent three years, to open his account this season for the Red Devils. Of his 23 appearances for Manchester United to date, Ighalo has been named in the starting line-up on seven occasions, including twice in the FA Cup.