Manchester United’s decision to sign Odion Ighalo on loan from Chinese outfit Shanghai Shenhua in January 2020 certainly caused quite a stir.
The former Watford striker had left English football for the Far East in 2017 and found sensational form in Asian football.
From 2017 to 2018 with Changchun Yatai, Ighalo struck a remarkable 36 goals in 55 league matches, showing his ability in front of goal, before hitting 10 goals in 17 league appearances with Shanghai Shenhua.
A move to join United on deadline day in January 2020 was a dream come true for the forward, which saw him become the first Nigerian to play for the club and only the seventh from the continent.
Following three substitute appearances for United, he made his full debut in the Europa League round of 32 clash against Club Brugge, scoring his maiden goal in European competition in the process as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side ran out comfortable 5-0 winners.
A week later, a brace in the FA Cup victory over Derby County followed and, in the final game before the Covid-19 pandemic forced European football to a halt, he scored a spectacular volley in the victory over LASK.
But things would change after football eventually resumed.
Ighalo’s loan deal was due to expire in the summer but, with the season delayed due to the pandemic, an extension until January 2021 was secured. However, the striker’s opportunities at United would dwindle.
Days after he bid farewell to United, Ighalo would return to Asia – though this time China wasn’t his destination, as he instead signed for Saudi outfit Al-Shabab on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
He left United having scored five goals in 23 appearances across all competitions – the vast majority of which came off the bench.
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Despite a long absence from first-team action, Ighalo has quickly settled back into his natural form in front of goal, scoring three in his opening seven league matches for the Saudi side.
Before this weekend’s fixtures, Al-Shabab were second in the standings, just three points behind leaders Al-Hilal. However, going into their match against Al-Batin on April 10, Ighalo’s side had endured a sequence of three consecutive matches without a win.
Ighalo not a part of the squad for the 3-1 defeat by Al-Taawoun on March 20, having been substituted in the 2-1 defeat by Al-Ittihad 10 days beforehand.