Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Odion Ighalo is the kind of striker the Red Devils “have been lacking” after the Nigerian turned in a complete centre-forward’s performance in the 5-0 rout of Club Brugge on Thursday.
Solskjaer named Ighalo in the starting line up for the Europa League Round of 32 return-leg clash at Old Trafford after Anthony Martial pulled out with a muscle injury.
It was the Nigerian’s first start for the club since his last-minute loan move from Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua and Ighalo celebrated by scoring his first goal for the Red Devils much to the delight of his manager and Red Devils fans around the world.
The former Super Eagles forward got on the end of a lovely interplay between Bruno Fernandes and Juan Mata to score United’s second of the night in the 34th minute.
In so doing, he became the first Nigerian to play and score for the Old Trafford side.
Portuguese midfielder Fernandes had given United the lead from the spot seven minutes earlier after Simon Deli was sent off for handling the ball in the area.
Scot McTominay then added a third to put United 3-0 up at the interval and Brazilian midfielder Fred completed the rout with a pair of well-taken goals in the second-half as United sauntered into the last 16 with 6-1 aggregate victory.
Ighalo created two chances and had two shots on target, one of which resulted in a goal and at the end of ninety minutes, Solskjaer declared himself pleased with all aspects of the Nigerian’s display.
“He [Ighalo] plays up front, he can play with his back to goal and the goal was a good example of what you want of him. He can hold up the ball and he is what we have been lacking a little bit,” Solskjaer told BT Sport after the game.
With Martial joining Marcus Rashford on the sidelines, United would have been faced with the prospect of going into games with just one fit striker – teenage academy graduate Mason Greenwood.
Ighalo’s presence has proven prescient in that light and Solsjkaer said United signed the Nigerian precisely because of such situations.
“If we hadn’t had Odion tonight then Mason Greenwood would have had to play and we have a game on Sunday and that would put us in a tired position. We knew what we got when we signed him.”