New Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo will require up to a month at Old Trafford before he starts scoring goals and churning out good performances. His former manager at Watford, Quique Sanchez Flores added that the Nigerian is capable of returning to his best when he finally settles down at United.
The Red Devils completed a last-minute loan signing of the former Nigerian international from Shanghai Shenhua until the end of the season. United secured the deal worth £3million, which does not include an option to buy should Ighalo impress at Old Trafford.
The 30-year-old knows the Premier League very well, having played at Watford between 2014 and 2017. During his time at Vicarage Road, he scored 16 goals in 55 Premier League appearances and scored 40 goals in 100 appearances across all competitions before leaving for China. His first stint in the Chinese Super League was with Changchun Yatai before he joined Shanghai Shenhua in February 2019.
Ighalo will provide short-term cover for the injured England international Marcus Rashford, who is expected to be sidelined for up to six months with a back problem. The 22-year-old suffered the injury coming on as a substitute in the FA Cup replay with Wolves.
The Nigerian played under Flores when he was in charge at the Hornets in the 2015-2016 campaign. Flores also worked with Ighalo for a second time during a brief spell in charge of Shanghai at the start of 2019. The 30-year-old has netted 46 times in 70 games in the Chinese Super League across three years. He also finished as top scorer in African Cup of Nations qualifying for Nigeria with seven goals, before scoring five at the tournament last summer.
Speaking to The Athletic, Flores said the former Nigerian international will need time to get familiar with the rigors of the Premier League after spending three years in China. He added that Ighalo will also need time to keep up with the physical demands, weather and match congestion in the league.
He said: “Mainly, the problem is how they train in China. It is not the same as in England.
“Is he really ready for first-team matches in the Premier League because the physical difference is so big? He probably needs one month to recover the full rhythm.
“The good thing is he knows his body well, works hard on injury prevention and he is always working after training.”
He continued: “I should say, also, that I felt in China, he gave exactly the same effort and quality as he gave me four years ago. We had the feeling in China that he could recover a high level with any team in Europe.
“I have an amazing impression of the player. I fell in love with him. As a guy, he’s professional. He’s a straight arrow. As a person, his life is private. He has strong Christian values and he is respectful.”
Ighalo could make his United debut in their huge game against fellow top-four challengers Chelsea on Monday February 17.