Odion Ighalo has admitted that he thought the idea of him joining Manchester United was a “joke” before it became a reality in January.
Ighalo was a surprise addition for United on Deadline Day, as the Red Devils scrambled to find a striker to replace Marcus Rashford while the Englishman was injured.
Despite the mixed reception to his arrival, Ighalo has proven to be a success at Old Trafford during his loan spell from Shanghai Shenhua, which was recently extended until next January.
The former Watford striker, who grew up supporting United, admits he thought his dream move was too good to be true, due to three main factors.
“I thought it was a joke,” he told Sky Sports News. “I was playing in Shanghai. That was against me. Would a club as a big as United be looking in China for a striker? That was against me.
“My age. That was against me. There was a pandemic in China. That was against me. I said no, this is a joke.
“Later, when it got serious, I thought only when I fly to Manchester will I believe it.”
Ighalo has scored in every game he has started for United so far, including a brace in the FA Cup at Derby County, but is yet to feature from the first minute in a Premier League match since his return to England.
His form in the cup competitions has made him a useful player for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, though, and Ighalo insists he can do even better when United get their season back underway against Tottenham Hotspur on 19th June.
“When I signed, a lot of people doubted my ability,” he explained. “I never doubted myself and I knew what I could add to the team and I think I can still do more.
“People have not seen my best because I came in and my sharpness and fitness wasn’t there, but I’m getting much better and I hope to finish the season really well.”
His hopes of a strong finish will be boosted by the chance to play with two high-profile members of the United squad with whom he is yet to share a pitch.
The 30-year-old is excited at the prospect of lining up alongside Rashford, who has recovered from his injury, as well as Paul Pogba, who has not played in 2020, for the first time.
“I’m very excited,” Ighalo added. “Seeing them from outside is different to training with them. Pogba is back, he’s doing very well, he’s strong, he’s fit. Marcus is exceptional, a very talented player. I can’t wait to play with these guys.”
Another teammate Ighalo is looking forward to working with again is Bruno Fernandes, who also arrived at Old Trafford in January.
The pair briefly crossed paths at former club Udinese, where Fernandes stayed until 2016 – and Ighalo insists that the midfielder has developed into a much better player since then.
“He’s one of the best I’ve played with,” he enthused. “I played with him at Udinese and you could tell he had the talent, but now he’s different.
“He has vision, gives good passes and scores goals. He’s still getting used to the Premier League and when he settles down, he’s going to be so good for Manchester United.”