Rio Ferdinand says he was wrong about Odion Ighalo, has likened the striker to Henrik Larsson and says Manchester United must sign him permanently.
Ferdinand says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has proved correct in buying the 30-year-old, and now believes United must make his loan deal permanent this summer.
Solskjaer signed Ighalo on loan until May 31 on the final day of the January transfer window in what many pundits, including Ferdinand, claimed was a panic buy.
United had been working on a deal to sign Bournemouth’s Josh King, but when that fell through they turned to Ighalo, and he subsequently arrived on loan from Shanghai Shenhua on a temporary deal.
United though now face a problem in that Ighalo’s loan spell is likely to end before the season and they must then either extend his loan or, as Ferdinand wants, sign him permanently with a fee of £15million being mentioned.
Discussing Ighalo’s future in a Q&A session with his Instagram followers, Ferdinand said: “Wow, eight games, three starts in that, four goals and one assist. Ighalo, do you sign him for Manchester United now?
“All them people that out there that were saying: ‘What are we doing signing Ighalo? What’s going on? What’s Ole thinking?’ – I was one of them, I have to admit it.
“Ighalo’s been in China, the league’s nowhere near what the Premier League is so how’s he gonna get up to speed? Is he gonna be ready straight away? We need somebody to come and make an impact immediately. Coming from China, impossible.
“Well he’s proved us all wrong. This guy has proved us all wrong. It’s refreshing to see someone who is like a supporter, who is thankful. He looks like he’s absolutely delighted to be at Manchester United. He’s been a Manchester United supporter his whole life. He looks like he’s saying ‘thank you’ every day he walks up to Ole for giving him this opportunity.
“He’s not someone who says ‘Manchester United are lucky to have me here’ – that’s the vibe I’ve got for a little while and that’s not just United, that’s other clubs as well.
“This boy looks like he’s happy to be here: ‘Whatever you tell me to do I’m gonna go out there and do it to the best of my ability. I’m gonna give you 100 per cent every day in training and in matches because I love this club and I want to do right by this club’. I love it.
“It’s shocked me to see what he’s done. Listen, we’re not talking like he’s turned Man United into world-beaters but United needed something and he’s brought it in and given it and that’s all you can ask for.
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“And I think he’s warranted the opportunity to come in as a full-time player and what he’s given Manchester United which they didn’t have is someone they can pass the ball into and can hold it up, he’s got a physical presence, he can hold off a defender or two and lay the ball in for someone else to score.”
Former United defender Ferdinand also believes Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James will all feel the benefit of Ighalo’s experience, just as Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha did when Larsson joined on loan back in 2007.
“Rashford, when he’s fit, will appreciate playing with someone like this,” added Ferdinand. “He can have the impact of the Rashfords, on the Martials, on Daniel James etc. that someone like Henrik Larsson can have on the likes of [Wayne] Rooney and [Louis] Saha when he was there.
“That little bit of experience. He’s got something that’s different to all the other guys in the team and you need that sometimes.”