Even before he even kicked a ball for Manchester United, Odion Ighalo’s effusiveness about playing for the club had already made a great story.
This was a guy that fell in love with Manchester United as a teenager while growing up in Lagos, got his break as a professional player, played for several clubs across Europe, played in the Premier League for Watford-where he faced Manchester United a couple of times-moved to China where he was supposed to end his career and then got an unexpected move to Manchester United.
Things fell into place for Ighalo in ways he never expected and his countenance when he joined Manchester United told the whole story.
From his Sky Sports interview at the airport when he first arrived in Manchester to complete the deal to every time he had to speak, Ighalo never missed an opportunity to express how grateful he was for the chance to play for his boyhood club.
It wasn’t just in words, Ighalo’s sense of obligation was also evident when he stepped on the pitch. Four goals in three starts and some impressive outings in his eight games for Manchester United, the pessimism that first trailed his signing turned to admiration. Off the pitch, the 30-year-old has also drew admiration from everyone at the club, from coaches to players with his hard work and infectious application.
He was well-loved at the club that Ole Gunnar Solskjær once said that the striker ‘has the qualities’ the club needed next season. That prompted talks of a permanent contract for Ighalo who was then basking in the joy of playing for his dream club.
The coronavirus pandemic however brought complications that threatened to cut short Ighalo’s stay at Manchester United and send him back to China.
He was even at the risk of not finishing the season with Manchester United as his initial loan deal ran out on Sunday, May 31, before the Premier League restart. But in another unexpected twist, Manchester United and Chinese Super League (CSL) Shanghai Shenhua reached an agreement to extend the player’s loan deal for another six months.
"They [Shanghai Greenland Shenhua] have been great towards us, allowing him to play for his dream club," Solskjaer is quoted to say by Sky Sports.
"It's been a dream for him and hopefully he can finish what he started and win a trophy with us."
For Ighalo, this means he continues to live his dream as a Manchester United player for the rest of the year. With this sorted, the striker can now take this focus to the pitch to make sure he makes his Manchester United stay even more memorable with a trophy. With the way things have gone in Ighalo’s way, no one can bet against that.