Manchester United’s on-loan forward Odion Ighalo is still “pinching himself” after securing a move to the Premier League club he supported as a boy and could make his debut against Chelsea on Monday, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Friday.
The 30-year-old, the first Nigerian to sign for United, moved to Old Trafford from China’s Shanghai Shenhua until the end of the season on the last day of the transfer window last month.
But he had to miss their training camp in Spain over fears he may not clear British immigration on their return should border restrictions tighten owing to the coronavirus epidemic, putting his involvement in Monday’s match in doubt.
“I never said he was going to be ready to play on Monday. He’ll be involved with us and he will travel down with us,” Solskjaer told a news conference.
“Now he’s out of that two-week precaution period… let’s see if he’s involved or not. We’ve kept in touch with him and we’ve done our own programme, he’s done his.
“He’s probably pinching himself at times at his favourite club at the age of 30, but he’s earned that one.”
Ighalo will meet the rest of United’s squad for the first time only today after training alone.
But Solskjaer also said the lack of knowledge of his new team’s style of play does not mean the striker cannot make an instant impact.
“Well, it didn’t take me too long. I didn’t have a training session to come on and score,” the Norwegian said of his playing days at United.
“As a striker you get thrown on out there and it might be he’ll have to come off the bench, give us a goal and he does whatever he’s done.”
The signing of the former Watford striker, who has been playing in China for three years, has been questioned by fans who feel he is not up to the club’s standards.
But Solskjaer insisted it was necessary to strengthen the attack following Marcus Rashford’s injury.
“We needed another forward and we got the chance to get Odion on a loan. He’s a goalscorer, he was top scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations last summer so he can help the club,” he said.
United have beaten the Blues three times in a row under Solskjaer – in the FA Cup last season and Premier League and League Cup this term – and the manager knows defeat would leave them nine points adrift of Frank Lampard’s fourth-place team (41).
Paul Pogba remains sidelined following ankle surgery, while fellow midfielder Scott McTominay (knee) and the defensive duo of Axel Tuanzebe (thigh) and Timothy Fosu-Mensah (thigh) are not ready to play yet.