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Monday, June 21, 2021

‘You can’t ask for much more’

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A former Red Devil has praised the Nigerian for the way he has applied himself since joining the club on loan from Shanghai Shenhua

Odion Ighalo has done “pretty well” in his first three months on Manchester United‘s books, according to Andy Cole, who thinks the striker has “applied himself” admirably at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was determined to bring in an extra centre-forward in January after losing top scorer Marcus Rashford to a back injury, with only Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood left to call upon up front heading into the second half of the season.

A number of high-profile potential targets were linked with the Red Devils, but they ended up turning to a man who had spent the last three years of his career in the Chinese Super League.

United announced the signing of Ighalo on deadline day, after agreeing on a loan deal with his parent club Shanghai Shenhua.

The 30-year-old enjoyed a successful spell at Watford between 2014 and 2017 which left him with valuable Premier League experience, and has picked up from where he left off since arriving in Manchester.

Ighalo has contributed four goals and one assist to United’s cause in his first eight appearances, despite mainly being used as a substitute.

His last effort served as a reminder of his impressive finishing ability, as he volleyed home an unstoppable shot in a 5-0 away win against LASK in a last 16 Europa League first-leg tie on March 12.

That fixture marked United’s last outing before the season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and as things stand, Ighalo is due to return to China in May.

However, it has been widely reported that the club will submit a £15 million ($19m) offer for the ex-Nigeria international in order to extend his stay at Old Trafford, and Cole is among those to have been hugely impressed by the impact the forward has had in such a short space of time.

“I am really pleased with him,” the ex-United frontman said during a video call with Ighalo broadcast on MUTV.

“When you come to a club like Manchester United as a centre-forward, everyone expects you to score straight away, but it takes a little bit of time.

“And like Odion said himself, he wasn’t fit and was just coming in from pre-season in China.

“I think he has done pretty well when he has been given the opportunity, he has applied himself really well in the club and has scored four good goals, four centre-forward goals, you can’t ask for much more.”

Ighalo described Cole as one of his “heroes” growing up, while opening up on how he studied the former England international’s movements in the final third when he played up top with Dwight Yorke at the Theatre of Dreams.

“I had a lot of football heroes. When I started supporting Man Utd, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole were my heroes,” he said. “It is a great privilege for me to play at Man Utd, where great players like Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole have played.

“They were great strikers and scored a lot of goals. So I would watch their movements, the way they played, the way they created space for themselves, watching the way they met crosses behind defenders.

“I learned all of that and it has helped me a lot in my football career.”

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