Manchester United have been given until 23 June to agree an extension to Odion Ighalo’s loan deal.
This follows confirmation from the English Premier League that players whose contracts expire on June 30 will be allowed to sign short-term extensions with the season set to go beyond that date.
Ighalo, 30, joined United in January on loan until the end of the season from Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua.
His contract was initially set to run out at the usual end of the Premier League campaign in May.
However, with professional football in England suspended since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season is set to spill over into June and July with nine rounds of matches remaining.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said on Thursday that it was decided “to ensure as far as possible that clubs complete the season with the same squad they had available prior to the suspension of the campaign”.
The clubs unanimously agreed to enter into contract extensions as long as the players are also on board.
“What we decided today is to ensure as far as possible that clubs complete the season with the same squad they had available prior to the suspension of the campaign,” Masters said in a statement.
“Players can extend their contracts beyond June 30 until the end of the season, but it must be agreed by both parties.”
Manchester United, however, find themselves in a complicated situation with Ighalo’s Chinese side reportedly demanding his return to China for the new Chinese Super League season billed to start in July.
Meanwhile, the English Premier League is in discussions to restart the season next month after the government on Thursday opened the door for professional football to resume.
Media reports have suggested that Shanghai Shenhua would be open to Ighalo remaining in England but only on the condition that the 20-time English champions make the Nigerian’s stay permanent for at least £20million.
Ighalo is understood to be open to extending his stay with his boyhood club but would be powerless to prevent a return to China if both clubs fail to reach an agreement.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had indicated his willingness to keep Ighalo beyond this season and the Red Devils were reportedly mulling a £15m offer for the Nigerian striker before the season was suspended in March.
Ighalo has managed to cultivate a cult following among United fans owing primarily to the captivating story of his dream-come-true move to the club of his dreams at the age of 30.
The former Watford man has started just three games for the Red Devils but has managed four goals in those starts.
If United and Shenhua fail to reach a common ground then Ighalo could have played his last game for the Red Devils against LASK of Austria in the Europa League.
The former Granada striker could yet remain in England with Newcastle – who are close to purchased by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium – reportedly eyeing his services.