By Preye Campbell
For some reason, Odion Jude Ighalo’s certain exit from Manchester United may have a sad bearing on us all.
Maybe it is due to the nature of his story; boyhood United supporter living his dream at Old Trafford, and in such an amazing fashion too. We can be allowed to get emotional by this but one thing is absolutely clear; the end is nigh for the Nigerian at the Theatre of Dreams.
The deadline day arrival of Edinson Cavani has seen coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer re-jig his United attack, and it now looks like the former Watford man has fallen further down the pecking order.
In one of football’s exciting fairy tale stories, Ighalo was picked up on January transfer deadline day by United from Shanghai Shenhua. With the injury to Marcus Rashford at the time, Ighalo was only giving a short deal as he was signed to cover the Englishman. Of course, the former Super Eagles forward was more than happy to accept the six-month deal, sending fans in Nigeria into ecstasy. Things got even better for our first Nigerian representative at the Theatre of Dreams as he quickly settled in to help rejuvenate a team lacking confidence at the time.
By the time Rashford got back – coupled with the forced break in the league, and later its restart- the signs were there that Ighalo would see less playing time. Ighalo did not seem to fit the criteria for Solskjaer’s side; 31 years old, not boasting a prolific goalscoring record, coming from China. So, there was no way he was going to break into that first team.
The 2019/20 season ended, but ahead of the new season, Ighalo was given an extension, seemingly because United’s attacking fortunes had not improved at the time. Another plus to the fairy tale chapter. But the former Granada player, like the rest of the team this season, has had enough turbulent times in the short period of the season, and he has just nine league minutes to his belt and has relied heavily on Carabao Cup matches.
Now, Cavani is in. where does it leave Ighalo?
Admittedly, Cavani, at 33, might be older than Ighalo, but he is a better striker as his records speak for themselves. We could agree that the South American forward is the superior striker in Old Trafford. He is yet to play a competitive match since March 11 though, and with Anthony Martial receiving a red card on Sunday, it could hand Ighalo a lifeline. But a lifeline could be one or two games. Just that.
Ighalo has three months left in his contract, which means it will make no sense for the United board to terminate his contract. But then again, we may have seen the last of the die-hard United fan already. He has not been prolific enough to give the board and Solskjaer any kind of selection headache, and even if he did, he just didn’t seem to fit in United’s future plans anyway.
Of course, one thing Ighalo can be proud of is that he made his dream a reality; to play for Manchester United. Nothing else should matter.