Last Chance For Ighalo To Shine In The Champions League?Published: November 20, 2020
Manchester United can secure their Champions League progress in the month of December, which is also the final month Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo has contracted with the Premier League club.
Before he must return to Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Shenhua, 31-year-old striker Ighalo has one last opportunity to impress in Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
Top of Group H after three games, the best UEFA Champions League odds would suggest that United will qualify for the knockout stage, with the former Nigerian international aiming to help his team achieve that objective.
Ighalo moved to Old Trafford in the January transfer window, midway through the 2019-20 season, in a loan deal originally set to last for the remainder of the campaign.
However, due to a combination of changing fixture schedules and quality performances by the player himself, United were encouraged to extend that loan until January 2021, allowing him to remain for at least the first half of the current season.
Although he was unable to find the back of the net in 11 Premier League appearances last season, Ighalo did manage to score 3 goals in 3 games in domestic cup competitions, along with 2 goals in 5 games in the UEFA Europa League, before United were eventually eliminated by Spanish outfit Sevilla in the semi-finals.
Unfortunately, despite impressive displays towards the end of last season, there has been little action on the pitch for Ighalo.
The solitary Premier League appearance this term came as an 81st-minute substitute, during a disappointing 1-3 home defeat for United against Crystal Palace.
Further cameo appearances from the bench have come in the EFL Cup, both away from home, against Luton Town and Brighton.
As yet, while Ighalo has been part of the matchday squads named for Champions League games, he hasn’t played a single minute during any of the three European encounters this season.
That’s clearly a situation he will be hopeful of changing, eager to pull on the famous jersey of Manchester United at every opportunity.
To his credit, despite any sense of personal frustration, he must be feeling, Ighalo has been a model professional in support of his teammates.
With the return to full fitness this season of England striker Marcus Rashford, French international Anthony Martial in good form, youngster Mason Greenwood continuing to impress, plus the arrival of Uruguay international Edinson Cavani, Ighalo has found himself way down the pecking order for minutes.
No matter how many minutes Ighalo gets to play during the final month or so of his loan spell, there’s no doubt he will fondly treasure his time at Old Trafford.
As a fan of Manchester United since childhood, this was always an opportunity he dreamed of but never expected to arrive.
Sporting the habitual smile and with his typical positive attitude, Ighalo will return to Shanghai Shenhua keen to impress in the Chinese Super League once again, thankful for the memories, because he will always remain the first Nigerian player ever to represent Manchester United at senior level.
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