3 Reasons why Odion Ighalo is the perfect striker for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United
- Based on Odion Ighalo's performance since his arrival at Man Utd, it seems that Solskjaer has finally found his perfect striker.
Manchester United have been impeccable in their transfer business in January, although it didn’t initially appear so, with only two late signings. Since then, the Red Devils have embarked on a great 10 game unbeaten streak.
Much has been said about Bruno Fernandes’ impact at Old Trafford, who has had an outstanding influence on the team’s performance, although a similar brand of admiration also needs to be meted out on Odion Ighalo. The performances that Ighalo has succeeded in meting out for his dream club have been impressive.
Game after game has seen him do more than just score and he is certainly hungry for more. The Nigerian striker’s loan move was certainly a rushed last-minute affair, but here’s why Solskjaer was right in sanctioning it.
1. Hold-up Play
Ighalo’s hold-up play is impeccable, to say the least, a true spectacle of brute on-field intelligence. Against Manchester City, he was brought on only in the 88th minute and until the extended added time, Ighalo performed a central task - kill the game.
This serves a dual brilliance. Whilst defending a slim lead, Ighalo was brilliant in holding the ball in non-dangerous positions, frustrating City’s hopes. Likewise, his adept skill also ensured that his teammates were brought into the attack, as seen in the flick to Fred which went on to lead to Scott McTominay’s goal.
A performance of that calibre was sorely missed when Liverpool played at Old Trafford earlier this season, when such a focal point was absent up-front leading to a failure in defending a one-goal lead. In fact, this specific ability was immensely lacking in Romelu Lukaku, despite his physique, ending in his ousting from the side. In comparison, Ighalo’s touch is far superior and despite the small sample space of games to judge from, his catalyzing influence has led to an attacking influence despite when defending a lead.
An impact substitute to revere, and one that aptly adheres to Sir Alex Ferguson’s late play heroics, one that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen on co-opting now.
2. Competition amongst the ranks
With Marcus Rashford out injured, Ighalo’s presence and goalscoring knack also has an impact on Anthony Martial. Knowing that the Nigerian can replace him is bound to play a role in the Frenchman stepping up his game.
In fact, since Ighalo’s arrival, Martial has garnered 515 minutes and netted 4 goals, while Ighalo has found 4 as well. This indicates that Martial has improved while Ighalo’s near matched numbers will put the pressure on the Frenchman to perform.
Even here, what stands out is the attitude with which Ighalo has been plying his trade at United, happy to play each minute and no matter whether he’s made to play on the bench or down the order, the job will be done.
A similar inspiration can also strike Mason Greenwood for starts in the erstwhile smaller fixtures which were his domain. Such competition is crucial to inspire the best out of the lot and for the longest time, the Red Devils simply didn’t have a similar dynamic amongst their strikers.
3. Natural Striker
Solskjaer said it best when singled out Ighalo’s brilliance, stating the following after the side’s 5-0 win over Club Brugge in the Europa League: “As the ball is played over to Juan, he spins and is on the six-yard line when Juan puts it there. That's a natural striker.”
Ighalo, was also the top scorer in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, netting 5 goals for Nigeria, cementing this reputation even beyond his move away from Watford.
In the recent games against Club Brugge and Derby County, in particular, Ighalo displayed an astounding knack for sniffing out goal-scoring opportunities and placing himself in the right spots to finish promising runs. The kind of goal he scored against LASK also indicates a penchant for the picturesque.
This is a feat that the versatile yet far from clinical Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial lack on a regular basis and thus gives the Norwegian gaffer extra incentive to feature Ighalo more often. Going by it, one can argue that he is the best option to unleash in order to bring out a classic striking play that the United of the past were.
Should Odion Ighalo’s dream cameo at Old Trafford last longer than six months? There is a strong argument to be made as to why keeping him permanently is a wiser bet and an economically sounder path than acquiring the likes of Moussa Dembele and Timo Werner.
Published 15 Mar 2020, 21:31 IST