The former Nigeria international performed better than expected at Old Trafford, but he was never the long-term answer regardless of the coronavirus.
As Harry Maguire headed in Manchester United’s second goal against Chelsea in their 2-0 Premier League away win in February, Odion Ighalo could be seen on the touchline celebrating like a fan.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had sent his deadline-day signing from the January window out to warm up ahead of his debut at Stamford Bridge, and the lifelong United supporter was – as he has since said in his own words – “living the dream”.
Questions were asked when a deal was struck for the former Watford man with just hours left of the January window. Despite the criticism, club sources believed it was a savvy move to help fill a void left by the injury to Marcus Rashford, United’s leading goalscorer this season.
January is a notoriously difficult time to do business and Solskjaer needed back-up for his strike force with Rashford facing months on the sidelines with a back fracture. The Nigerian was seen as a short-term solution to aid United’s injury problems.
The 30-year-old impressed in his eight appearances before Covid-19 forced the postponement of all football, scoring four goals in his three starts. One of those was a world-class finish against LASK in United’s final game before lockdown, He has also shown his ability as a team player, with his strong hold-up play and tireless work rate.
But that Europa League fixture against LASK looks likely to be the final time Ighalo competitively pulls on a United shirt, with his loan deal expiring at the end of May .
The postponement of the Premier League season has seen an agreement reached that enables clubs to temporarily extend the contracts of players whose deals are ending this summer to allow them to play until the season comes to an end, and United were open to keeping Ighalo past the end of his contract.
His parent club Shanghai Shenhua, however, feel that Ighalo is key for them, and due to their lack of squad depth they are keen to have him back for the resumption of the Chinese Super League season. Goal has learned that the Chinese side have offered the forward a new three-and-a-half year deal worth £400,000 a week in a bid to retain his services for the long term.
A six-month loan deal was thought to be good value for money by United chiefs back in January, but with the ex-Nigeria international looking likely to depart after just eight appearances it will be an unfortunate end to a deal that was starting to look like a decent piece of transfer business.