ODION IGHALO could make his Manchester United debut on Monday night against Chelsea after completing his two-week quarantine away from the rest of the first-team squad amid coronavirus fears.
The 30-year-old, who has been cleared, hasn’t yet been able to train with his new team-mates, but boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes it is not too early for him to make an impact.
When asked if the Nigerian would be thrust straight into his team, Solskjaer was coy.
He said: “I never said he was gonna be ready to play on Monday, he’ll be involved with us and he will travel down with us.
“Now he’s out of that two week period, precaution and just a precaution we made and let’s see if he’s involved or not.
“We’ve kept in touch with him and of course we’ve done our own programme, he’s done his, and it was always gonna be a case of him having to integrate having been out in China and needs to get used to the players, and the team, up to speed as quick as he can, he’s been working really hard.
“I think he is probably pinching himself at times at his favourite club at the age of 30 but he’s earned that one and hopefully he impresses us so we can see him play.”
And when quizzed over the criticism that the Red Devils have received over the left field signing of Ighalo, Solskjaer was having none of it.
As a striker you get thrown on out there and it might be he’ll have to come off the bench and get us a goal and he does whatever he’s done.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a potential debut for Odion Ighalo
He added: “The injury to Marcus Rashford, it has to be said, we needed another forward and when we got the chance to get Odion on a loan that was for us a goalscorer, top scorer African Cup of Nations last year, yeah he can help the club, he is a very professional player, good lad and will give something to the group.”
And the 46-year-old drew on his own Old Trafford experience when asked if Ighalo was ready to make an instant impact: “Well, it didn’t take me too long… I didn’t have a training session to come on.
“As a striker you get thrown on out there and it might be he’ll have to come off the bench and get us a goal and he does whatever he’s done.”
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Ighalo hasn’t played since Shanghai Shenhua’s final game of the 2019 Chinese Super League campaign on December 1, but United fans can be heartened by his impressive 129 minutes-per-goal ratio last season.
Solskjaer himself netted six minutes into his own United debut back in 1996… and will be dreaming of a similar impact from his new No20.
United go to Stamford Bridge aiming to close the gap on fourth to just three points, while a Chelsea win could see their top four hopes evaporate – as it would leave them with a nine-point deficit to make up.