Odion Ighalo's time will come, he may already be having effect at United

Odion Ighalo must stay patient at Manchester United. Over the coming weeks he is likely to have a very important role to play.

The deadline day signing is still waiting for his first start as he builds up his fitness after his late loan move from Shanghai Shenhua.

While United wanted an immediate contributor, the timing of the Chinese Super League ending in early December has left Ighalo playing catch-up on his fitness despite his extra effort.

If not for the form of Anthony Martial, more later, this may have been an issue. As it is, United can afford to ease Ighalo in.

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images


Unlucky start

Remarkably, it is almost a month since Ighalo landed his dream move to Old Trafford.

He so easily could have scored on his debut after being put through by Fred against Chelsea, only to have his shot saved by Willy Caballero.

Against former side Watford at the weekend he had half a chance to score United’s fourth after he took the ball past Ben Foster out wide, only to see his shot crash back off the post.

The good news is he is getting into positions to score, and his teammates are finding his runs.

He has not started a game yet, and while he may be anxious to score his first goal, the signs so far suggest it is only a matter of time.

Having an effect already

Ighalo may be having an effect beyond raising United’s profile in his homeland and attracting more match going Nigerian support to Old Trafford.

Its tough to quantify, but Ighalo’s arrival appears to have brought out a bit of focus in Anthony Martial.

Martial has been helped of course by Bruno Fernandes too, but he is yet to register an assist for the Frenchman.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka set up Martial’s goal against Chelsea, and his strikes against Brugges and Watford were through sheer determination and outstanding skill and technique.

Martial is producing with a consistency which he has not done all season up to now, and while he can drift in and out of games, his record of three in the last three is what we were looking for.

Prior to Ighalo’s arrival, Martial had just one goal in his previous six, and that was against Tranmere.

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

The Frenchman deserves credit for the way he has improved, but Ighalo’s arrival is part of the puzzle.

Martial knows that the moment his performances drop or he does not take his chances, he will open the door for Ighalo.

Rotation makes it inevitable Ighalo will start, but Martial is doing a good job of delaying it.

Likewise at the same time, Ighalo’s arrival has decreased pressure on Martial, who knows United’s fate in front of goal does not solely rest on his shoulders, as it would have felt like in late January.

Potentially Ighalo and Martial could play together if United go with two up front.

If Ighalo’s arrival has sparked Martial’s improvement, the Nigerian could end up profiting by playing alongside a more confident and increasingly prolific striker.

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