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Ighalo reflects on “emotional” United experience

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Ighalo celebrates vs Club Brugge

Odion Ighalo says he feels “emotional” and “privileged” to have played for Manchester United.

The first Nigerian footballer to represent the club, Ighalo is now playing in Saudi Arabia with Al-Shabab.

Ighalo played 23 times for United in a year-long loan move. His best period came soon after joining, netting four goals in a fortnight.

His first goal came in his maiden start for the Reds, a tap-in at home to Club Brugge, and the 31-year-old drew great affection from the supporters for his committed and passionate approach to life at the club.

“All my dreams have come true,” Ighalo told Sky Sports this week.

“The greatest moment was when I scored my first goal at Old Trafford [but] just waking up every morning and going into training at Carrington was a thing of joy.

“Meeting the lads, laughing, talking, going inside the dressing room for training and games… every moment is one I am going to cherish.

“I’m so happy that my path crossed with Manchester United – it’s the club I love with all my heart and for all my life so playing for them was a big privilege.

“Every day I wake up and I know that I am an ex-Manchester United player. It is something that I will never take for granted.”

Ighalo had played in the Premier League before his loan move to United and told Sky Sports that the Reds weren’t the only club interested in him in January 2020.

Tottenham Hotspur offered Ighalo a larger salary, but he “just wanted to play for Manchester United.”

“I couldn’t think about anything else other than making the Manchester United deal work. I was going to have to take a pay cut but I didn’t care, I just wanted the deal to happen.”

As the first Nigerian to play for United, Ighalo’s dream was also the dream of many of his compatriots watching at home.

“Going back to Nigeria, people still want Manchester United jerseys today,” he explained, “even though I am not playing for Manchester United anymore!”

“Sometimes I have to order some shirts from Manchester to give to people over there – that’s how big and how privileged I am to play for such a great club.”

Goal of the Month: Ighalo v LASKVideo

Having worked under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ighalo also offered some insight into what makes the Norwegian successful.

“He’s a good guy, a calm guy, and I never say him get angry,” explained Ighalo, “perhaps during a game when we were losing but the day after that it was totally forgotten because the next game was always more important than the last one.

“He knows how to manage the boys and talks to you, especially when you are not playing.

“He’s an intelligent coach. Tactically he’s good but with a team like Manchester United, a big team with a lot of good players, everyone wants to play.

“So sometimes it’s difficult for the coach but he understands that and when you have a coach who can manage that, then it is really good.”

Everyone at United fondly remembers Odion and will be wishing him well as his career continues outside of Europe.

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