Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted that Odion Ighalo could be in line for his first Manchester United start after explaining why he has proven a hit with the rest of the squad so far.
Ighalo was something of a surprise signing for United on Deadline Day in January, returning to the Premier League three years after leaving Watford for China.
The Nigerian striker came on in stoppage time for his debut in their win over Chelsea on Monday, and Solskjaer could give him even more action on Thursday night, when United visit Club Brugge in the Europa League.
“I won’t tell the team today, but we will have to rotate with all the games coming up and he’s one that could start, we’ve not 100% decided yet,” revealed Solskjaer at his pre-match press conference.
“Odion is a different type of striker, a goal scorer. We have seen him in training; he knows how to play as a centre-forward, he’s a fantastic professional and human.
“He has already added to the squad and they’ve taken to him. We hope he will sharpen up because it’s been a while since he has played and he needs to do a little extra after training. We need to give him as much game time as possible. I’m sure he will take his chances.”
Before the addition of Ighalo, one striker that got away for United was Erling Braut Haaland, who opted to sign for Borussia Dortmund rather than reuniting with his former Molde coach.
Solskjaer surprisingly went against his usual policy to comment on his former pupil’s progress, after he scored a brace in the Champions League against PSG on Tuesday.
“I normally never comment but since I have had Erling I’m delighted for him,” Solskjaer said. “He’s a top boy I want the best for and he’s started fantastically for Dortmund. For Norway it’s brilliant we have a striker who can score again.”
The eventual signing of Ighalo instead was an emergency measure after Marcus Rashford was ruled out for a number of months with a back injury, leaving Solskjaer short of options up front.
It is not yet clear whether or not the Englishman will return in time for the end of the season, or Euro 2020 after.
“I would hope he’s playing this season,” Solskjaer admitted. “It will just be touch and go towards the end. Hopefully we can get through this tournament and prolong the season.
“It takes time, I’m not a doctor. I was hoping he would recover quicker than what it looks like he’s going to be out for. Another few months definitely.
“If he’s not fit enough he won’t go (to the Euros).
“He had a scan and it was maybe more severe than what we hoped and expected. He felt fine a few days before that.
“I didn’t know it takes that time to recover. When it heals he will be stronger for it so it’s important we don’t rush it.”
There was less positive news on the injury front for Paul Pogba, however, with Solskjaer denying claims he could soon be back in training.
“He’s not anywhere near that yet,” was the manager’s response.