'Good to have different types of strikers' - Odion Ighalo enjoying giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer options up front
Nigerian believes he has raised his game and also grown stronger
Not every Manchester United fan was as delighted as Odion Ighalo was when he signed for United on January’s transfer deadline day, but the Nigerian has scored in all five United games he’s started.
A childhood United fan, he has become so popular around the club that United reached an agreement with his Chinese club Shanghai Greenland Shenhua to extend his loan until the end of this year. His best form came just before the lockdown and it would have been a shame for him to spend such a limited time at Old Trafford, so he’s thrilled to be staying.
Marcus Rashford, the man he was bought to cover for, is now back, while fellow forwards Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial are both in form, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants competition for places up front and that’s why he wants Ighalo around.
Talking in the United Review, ahead of Saturday’s home game against Bournemouth, Ighalo explains how his game has evolved since he last played in the Premier League with Watford.
“I think I’ve gained more experience now and I push my game a little bit more than when I was at Watford,” said the Nigerian.
“I think I’m even stronger now than I was then and have a bit more fighting ability to give, plus I have the experience to do what it takes on the field to score goals and to help the team. I feel I have improved from then to now.
“You have to keep the mentality the same, work hard and take the chance when it comes. You play for the team, even if you don’t score a goal, you can give an assist and work for the team. That’s the most important thing because it’s a team game.”
If you can’t touch the ball, you have to unsettle the defenders so your other team-mates can do something
Solskjaer likes Ighalo to be a nuisance when he’s not on the ball.
“If you can’t touch the ball or you can’t do anything with the ball, you have to unsettle the defenders so your other team-mates can move and do something with the ball,” Ighalo explains.
“It’s what I was trying to do in the first half [at Norwich] when I wasn’t getting too many balls. Just keep running, keep putting pressure on them and making them make mistakes so you can have other channels for the players to go into.”
Ighalo is a goal getter and feels his skills can complement the other strikers. “Martial is very skilful, he’s a direct striker,” he says.
“He likes to play with the ball at his feet. Rashy likes to run in behind. I think I bring different things to the strikers we have. I can play with my back to goal, I can keep the ball. I’m strong so it’s different, you know, and for the different games, we play different patterns and with different strategies. So it’s good to have different types of strikers in order to accomplish what you want.”
Of the current atmosphere in the dressing room, Ighalo says: “We have a good squad with good lads and good players, who are ready to work to give everything they have for the team. So it’s a privilege for me to join them, to play with these great lads – the young ones, the mature ones. They are good people and you see the atmosphere is always great; people are happy coming to work to do their job, smiling and all that.
"Me, I’m a happy guy, you know, I’m always around there and sharing with everyone – who is playing, who is not playing, who is down. We just laugh and talk about everything. I’m happy if the manager thinks I’m a great addition to the team but the squad is fantastic.”
He says he is happy to always encourage the young ones as well, “to push them to achieve their dream and work hard,” just as he is living his own wildest dream now.
Updated: July 3, 2020 01:45 AM