Odion Ighalo’s fairytale stay at Manchester United is set for a heartbreaking end after the Red Devils and his Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua failed to reach an agreement to extend his stay.
Ighalo, 30, joined boyhood club United on a short-term loan deal on transfer deadline day in January as cover for striker Marcus Rashford, who had been ruled out by a back injury.
His contract with United which expires on 31 May would have 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.
Besides, United are also set to welcome back Rashford who has recovered in time for the restart of the season.
While United had indicated a willingness to sign the Nigerian permanently before play was halted, it is understood the manager Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer is no longer keen.
Solsjkaer would, however, like to keep him for the rest of the season, given they are still in three competitions and could play up to 18 games in just over two months.
But negotiations with Shanghai Shenhua about extending his loan deal has proven difficult and while Ighalo wants to remain at Old Trafford, the expectation is that he will return to China at the expiration of his loan deal.
Shenhua want the striker back with the Chinese Super League expected to begin next month.
Should Ighalo fail to see out the season with United, it would mark an anti-climactic end to a leftwing transfer that resonated with United’s fanbase and was greeted with euphoria by Nigerians.
A lifelong United fan, Ighalo’s short stay has proved a success and he leaves having fulfilled his dream of playing for the club for whom he scored four goals in eight appearances including a memorable volley in the 5-0 win at Lask on 12 March.