Manchester United have completed a last-minute loan signing of former Nigerian international Odion Ighalo from Shanghai Shenhua until the end of the season. The Red Devils 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.
The striker currently earns a weekly wage of £300,000 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have agreed to pay just a third of his wage (£100,000). Ighalo is expected to land in Manchester from China over the weekend, having been in the Asian country for the last three years.
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.
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. United were also linked to other strikers such as Leicester City’s Islam Slimani, Bournemouth striker Josh King, former West Brom forward Salomon Rondon and PSG striker Edinson Cavani.
United, however, confirmed the deal at one minute past midnight, beating Tottenham to his signature with Jose Mourinho trying to strike a loan deal for the Nigerian in order to solve his own striker crisis on the final day of the window. Inter Milan also wanted to sign Ighalo, when their pursuit of Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud failed.
Speaking about Ighalo’s arrival, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “Odion is an experienced player. He will come in and give us an option of a different type of centre-forward for the short spell he’s staying with us.
“A great lad and very professional, he will make the most of his time here.”
The striker, who is a lifelong Reds supporter, is set to bolster United squad for the second half of the campaign, as the club competes in the Premier League, UEFA Europa League and Emirates FA Cup.
Ighalo becomes United’s second January signing after the club signed Bruno Fernandes on Thursday for an initial fee of around £46.6m from Sporting Lisbon, with potential add-ons taking the overall deal to £68m.
He began his professional career in his native Nigeria with local clubs Prime and Julius Berger, before sealing a transfer to Norwegian side Lyn in 2007. A year later, a move to Udinese in Italy eventually led to loan spells with Granada, Cesena and Watford in the Premier League.
While at Vicarage Road with the Hornets, Ighalo impressed and he made three appearances against United and one at Old Trafford, losing twice and winning once, while also earning an assist.