Odion Ighalo begins the season at Manchester United player like no other, knowing he will not complete it.
Ighalo’s loan deal is set to expire at the end of January, an extension on the originally agreed terms.
If the deal had expired at the end of August, Ighalo would have gone out with a whimper, having barely featured since the lockdown.
Now he has one more chance, in the third chapter of his United loan spell, to try to really kick on.
He captured the imagination
Ighalo was a left-field signing on deadline day, but something about it seemed to click.
He arrived professing his love for the club as a boyhood fan, and supporters embraced him, realising how much the team needed extra firepower up front.
Ighalo scored four goals in his first three United stars, including a goal of the season contender away at LASK. And then the season went into lockdown.
Despite netting on his return against Norwich, Ighalo failed to cement a place in the side, with Anthony Martial reaching new personal bests.
In the Europa League he fared little better, with Solskjaer only calling on him in injury time when a goal was needed against Sevilla.
Use him before you lose him
Ighalo’s expiring deal presents United with a unique circumstance heading into the season.
It is good to have extra cover up front, and so strategically, United should use Ighalo before we lose him.
Anthony Martial cannot be expected to start all 38 Premier League games, plus Champions League and EFL Cup matches in the first half of the season.
Rotation will be required, and while both Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood can fill in centrally if required too – it makes sense for United to use Ighalo where possible.
So we could see the Nigerian international frequently in the first half of the season, most likely in the EFL Cup game in a fortnight’s time away at either Reading or Luton.
Ighalo has lost some of his momentum, and needs good service, so he can thrive and make the most of his opportunities.
It would be great if he can have a productive season, and he starts pushing Martial and causes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a temporary selection headache.
The striker’s initial stint at United was like a fairytale, but like Cinderella, time has threatened to turn him into a pumpkin. But it’s not midnight yet…
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