Manchester United’s late swoop for Nigerian international striker Odion Ighalo was the most striking move of a quiet transfer deadline day for Premier League clubs on Friday.

Marcus Rashford’s back injury had left United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with only Anthony Martial and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood as strikers.

Ighalo, 30, joins on loan for the rest of the season from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua. He scored 40 goals in 100 appearances for Watford in his previous spell in England and United will hope he is just as prolific as they try to chase down Chelsea for a place in the top four.

But the signing has been met with bemusement from several quarters. Ex-United captain Gary Neville was at a loss for words when he tweeted: “I’ve been trying to find the words to describe what I think about the Ighalo signing . I can’t…”

Former Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock was more scathing, telling Sky Sports News: “I’m not sure he’s the right player for United. He’s not consistent and isn’t the right type of player. They want young players. Why didn’t they go for (Southampton striker) Danny Ings? He’s someone similar to Rashford. It’s desperation.”

United, who let Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez leave last summer, have been linked with a host of strikers including Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani, Hertha Berlin’s Krzysztof Piatek, Bournemouth’s Joshua King, Atletico Madrid’s Nikola Kalinic, Norwich’s Teemu Pukki and Ings.

Solskjaer backed his new acquisition though and said: “Odion is an experienced player. He will come in and give us an option of a different type of centre-forward for the short spell he’s staying with us.”

The Red Devils did land the biggest move of the window, signing Portuguese international midfielder Bruno Fernandes for an initial 55 million euros (S$83.3 million) that could rise to €80 million in add-ons.

But deals were difficult to do for many of the world’s richest clubs as Chelsea and Tottenham were frustrated in their search for a striker.

Spurs did make one significant signing in Dutch international winger Steven Bergwijn for £27 million (S$48.7 million) from PSV Eindhoven as well as making Giovani Lo Celso’s loan deal from Real Betis into a permanent move to replace Christian Eriksen, who departed for Inter Milan.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard cut the most frustrated figure as they failed to add anyone despite the lifting of their transfer ban.

English clubs collectively spent over £200 million, well short of the record £430 million outlay in 2018.

The mid-season window is increasingly seen as an undesirable time to do business for clubs wary of overpaying in a seller’s market.

Runaway leaders Liverpool had no such need to dive into the market, particularly after leaping on a £7.25 million buyout clause in Japanese international Takumi Minamino’s contract with Red Bull Salzburg in December.

Sheffield United armed their attempt to qualify for Europe for the first time with a club record £22 million signing of Norwegian midfielder Sander Berge from Genk.


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