Odion Ighalo signed off before the unexpected break with a two-goal performance for Manchester United away to LASK.
This took his tally for United across his brief loan spell to four goals, following previous strikes against Club Brugge and Derby County.
All of these goals came in starts, and Ighalo proved to be a valuable player during his six week stint for United.
Now with his loan deal renewed, Ighalo returns for Manchester United with some of his momentum taken away. The pressure is off, he will have proven to himself that he belongs.
Yet the return from injury of Marcus Rashford, combined with the potential improvement of Mason Greenwood, may make game time more limited for Ighalo as he looks to compete with Anthony Martial.
Ighalo will get chances as the team rotates, but he needs to show he can score goals from the bench, and excel in a super-sub role as well. This in turn will earn him more starting opportunities.
Ighalo almost scored from the bench on his debut at Stamford Bridge, missing a late chance one on one when put through on goal by Fred. United won the game anyway, and it was more of a blown opportunity personally, than for the team.
Then came the draw with Everton at Goodison. Ighalo was a late substitute, and spurned a great chance from close range to score a winner. This one was more disappointing.
Ighalo came off the bench in the home win against former club Watford and so nearly got on the scoresheet, rounding the goalkeeper before hitting the post.
His role in the home win over Manchester City in March was more positive.
He came off the bench for the final 10 minutes and performed strongly, holding the ball up well, enabling United to keep possession when protecting a one goal lead.
He even had a role in the build-up to Scott McTominay’s game clinching second goal.
Where Ighalo needs to kick on now is to be more clinical from the bench. In a short showing, he may only get one chance. He has to take it.
The Nigerian forward has become a fan favourite during his short stint at Old Trafford so far. He just needs to do a little more still.
The so-called lesser games against the likes of Derby, LASK and Brugge won’t exist. Every game will be like a cup final.
Some of those early misses from the bench can be put down to rustiness, having joined United after two months without any game time.
He needs to be clinical right away when he returns, and he will most likely be on the bench against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Friday night.
A winning goal off the bench would be the perfect way for Ighalo to restart. If a chance comes, he has to take it. United’s chances to chase Chelsea down will slowly run out if not.
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