Odion Ighalo has not kicked a ball yet for Manchester United, yet he will already be dreaming of making his loan move permanent.
Ighalo, a United fan, has an opportunity of a lifetime and he will want to earn the right to stay beyond May.
The Nigerian’s chances may not depend purely on his own performances. He needs Martial and Greenwood to click too.
Best case scenario for Ighalo
The situation for United at the start of next season matters, and Ighalo’s availability counts in his favour.
Marcus Rashford will be at Euro 2020 with England. United’s other two strikers have it all to prove.
Anthony Martial has long been overlooked by France, but late last year there were calls for Didier Deschamps to give him a recall.
Mason Greenwood is also a contender to gatecrash England’s squad with a strong second half of the season.
The best case scenario for Ighalo is that both Greenwood and Martial hit form in the second half of the season and do enough to earn international calls for Euro 2020.
This will mean United will have no available strikers for the start of pre-season, and the temptation to make a swift move for Ighalo will grow greater.
Ighalo has retired from international football and has no commitments this summer. He could be ready right away and go on tour with United, when Rashford, Martial and Greenwood could all potentially miss the start of it.
Players at international tournaments can often have a hangover and fatigue at the start of the following Premier League season. Having a fresh Ighalo could be very important.
United would still look to bring in another striker, a marquee and overdue replacement for Romelu Lukaku.
But even if this is a Timo Werner, for instance, his Euro 2020 involvement will leave him in the same situation as Rashford and co.
A lot has to go right
International calls for Greenwood and Martial are the best case scenarios for Ighalo. But at the moment both are long shots.
Martial has lost momentum and Greenwood still has a real uphill climb, especially with Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, Danny Ings and Callum Wilson all in front of him. This tournament is probably a bit too early, and that’s not a bad thing for United.
Martial’s last cap for France came back in March 2018. Nearly two years ago.
In this scenario, Ighalo would need to hold up his end of the bargain too and score his own share of goals.
Martial and Greenwood will probably need to score 10 goals each at least between now and May. Ighalo would likely need to hit around seven himself.
Can the trio really score 27 goals plus combined between now and May? We hope so, but a lot has to go right.
United reportedly have big plans for the summer, and could move for a player like Moussa Dembele or Odsonne Edouard who are on the fringes of France’s international set up.
Maxi Gomez, another possible target [Cadena Ser] hails from Uruguay and has no tournament involvement this summer.
If United want an available and fresh striker for the start of next season, Ighalo is not the only option.
United will want a marquee signing and logically it’s difficult to see Ighalo as anything other than a placeholder until someone better comes along.
Become a cult hero
While it is logically very difficult for Ighalo to earn a place at United, his success depends on something intangible.
Ighalo needs to create a buzz, he needs special moments, he needs to score important goals that will get him remembered at Old Trafford.
He needs to strike up a connection with fans, become a cult hero, and make it impossible for United to part ways with him.
The striker needs to show he is so different to United’s current options that he is valuable to have in the squad and benefits the players around him.
If he can score goals, and he’s still very different in style to United’s chosen summer target, he can stand out.
A fast start would be great and we hope Ighalo begins his United adevnture well on Monday against Chelsea. A permanent move is still a long shot, but the opportunity is there.
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