Manchester United have announced a deal to keep Odion Ighalo on loan for another seven months until the end of January 2021. In short, it is a smart move that had to be done.
Ighalo’s continued presence at Old Trafford was really the only sensible option in a marketplace turned upside down by the coronavirus crisis. It ensures not only that there is still sufficient cover up front, but also allows the club to focus recruitment on more pressing positions.
United were mocked by onlookers when a rushed through temporary deal for Ighalo was announced at the 11th hour of the January transfer window. But there can be no denying that the 30-year-old Nigerian, a boyhood United fan, has been an objective success and served a valuable purpose.
The club had wanted teenage sensation Erling Haaland as their primary long-term target. But having lost out on his signature to Borussia Dortmund, United – a club heavily focused on getting the right characters after being undermined by numerous failings in the past seven years – opted for short-term cover instead of rushing into any expensive potential mistakes.
If the right player isn’t available, don’t force it. That is a mantra the club appears to have thankfully now adopted over the last 12 months, with former manager Louis van Gaal suggesting in the last few days that United would settle for players who might have only been seventh on the shortlist.
Long-term, United do absolutely need another striker if the squad is to be strong enough to compete for major honours. For now, Ighalo fills it until the right player in the right circumstances is available.
Nobody can deny Ighalo’s short-term success at United. He was never intended to be a regular starter and instead was expected to provide relief in FA Cup and Europa League games. That is exactly what happened and he made an impact when called on – four goals in three starts.
Marcus Rashford was missing through injury and Ighalo’s presence allowed Anthony Martial to be rested. Now, Rashford is once more fit again, but Ighalo will still have a crucial relief role to play as games come thick and fast in the coming weeks to finish the Premier League season before August.
Beyond providing the necessary cover up front, Ighalo staying in Manchester until next January also allows United to focus their recruitment strategy on other positions, ensuring funds and time can be dedicated to more pressing gaps in the squad and altogether lessening pressure.
Good news for United.
Ighalo has been great since he’s come in. Not the biggest pressing need to sign a new first choice forward when you’ve got Martial and Rashford.
Any summer funds should be spent addressing the areas of the squad that need most attention. RW, CM, etc. https://t.co/mjpL2D3I5G
— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) June 1, 2020
Another striker is not now critical because Ighalo remains on board, but had it been that might have taken away from the money and time the club is expected to put into signing Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham, ticking off right winger, attacking midfielder and central midfielder.
No club, not even one as wealthy as United, is completely immune from the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said as much in April and that was reflected in the club’s financial figures for the three months to the end of March when matchday and broadcasting revenue were slashed and they actually recorded an overall loss for the period.