Manchester United manager,Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has emphasised how much of a key figure Odion Ighalo has become at Manchester United since his January loan move from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.
The Nigerian showed great awareness and composure to poke home the opener during our 2-1 Emirates FA Cup quarter-final win over Norwich City on Saturday and also played a part in the build-up to Harry Maguire’s winner.
It was Ighalo’s fifth goal in just four starts for the Reds – with the 31-year-old netting a brace to help defeat Derby County 3-0 in the fifth-round in March.
The former Watford man also has strikes against Club Brugge and LASK in the Europa League to his name, and Solskjaer praised his all-round abilities after the final whistle at Carrow Road.
“Very important, that was important for me, we worked hard to do it, and Odion knows how much we value him in and around the dressing room,”” Ole told reporters at his post-match press conference, when asked about getting the centre-forward’s loan move extended.
““He’s a goalscorer, a poacher, he’s strong and we can play the ball into him. He showed for the second and Paul [Pogba] found him.””
With Solskjaer making eight changes to the side which beat Sheffield United, Ighalo was tasked with leading the line and holding the ball up for the likes of Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Bruno Fernandes.
He performed his task with aplomb, and was quick off the mark when Luke Shaw’s aerial ball into the box took a flick off Juan Mata on 51 minutes.
With his back to goal, Ighalo spun round and hooked the ball beyond a powerless Tim Krul with his right foot.
Solskjaer commended the Nigerian’s bravery in putting United ahead.
“He’s got one eye on the ball,”” Ole continued.
““Probably one eye is on the keeper coming to smash him and the defender coming to smash him, so well done.””
The club’s innovative real-time data ranked Ighalo as United’s joint-second most influential performer, after Shaw.