Manchester United made perhaps the most unexpected signing of 2020’s January transfer window when Odion Ighalo arrived on loan from Shanghai Shenhua. The Nigeria international striker, who scored 39 goals in 99 matches for Watford between 2014 and 2017, was recruited to strengthen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attacking options which at that point, in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Daniel James and Jesse Lingard already represented a significant strength.
If he was expected to remain peripheral, he made a promising start, and to the extent that suggestions quickly grew that his loan move could be made permanent. However Greenwood’s ongoing emergence as a goalscorer of potentially the highest calibre, and the arrival of Edinson Cavani – a goalscorer whose strengths, unlike those of Rashford, Greenwood and Martial, are similar to those offered by Ighalo – mean he is increasingly expected to leave at the conclusion of a year spent on loan.
“It’s been difficult for him to be out of the squad as many times (as he has), of course, because he did really well up until the summer,” United’s manager said. “This season he’s not had as many opportunities but he’s never let himself down as a professional and a human being.”