Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sang Odion Ighalo’s praises after the Manchester United striker scored twice in the 3-0 FA Cup fifth-round victory over Derby County.
Ighalo arrived at Old Trafford to much derision in the January transfer window, having spent the past three years playing in the Chinese Super League after a similar length spell at Watford.
But in just two starts for United, against Club Brugge in the Europa League and Derby, boyhood fan Ighalo has netted three goals.
His first against Derby featured good improvisation, pouncing on a loose ball in the box before guiding it into the bottom corner while under pressure from both Derby centre-backs.
The second was a thumping finish into the roof of the net after his first effort was blocked on the line, although he did spurn the chance to complete his hat-trick in the closing stages, firing over the bar.
Solskjaer believes Ighalo is showing he is “vital” for the side as they deal with Marcus Rashford’s absence through injury.
“He is doing what it says on the tin and what we asked for when we signed him,” Solskjaer said.
“He is coming in, playing up front, and he’s a different type of striker. He scores, he gets chances every game and today he could have had another couple. I am very happy with him. It gives us a chance with Mason [Greenwood] and Anthony [Martial] to keep them fresh as well.
“He is experienced and he has scored goals all of his career. He is in and around the box, he reads it, he sniffs out where the chances will come. I think that striker is vital for a team.”
Despite his start to life in a United shirt proving better than nearly everyone expected – and it could have been even more impressive were it not for a magnificent Jordan Pickford save denying him the winner at Everton on Sunday – Solskjaer feels there is more to come.
At 30, Ighalo is the elder statesman of the United forward line and his boss thinks the younger strikers can learn from him and the physical test he provides for defenders.
“There is more to come,” Solskjaer added. “He will improve, he will get sharper and more used to us. I have no doubt that he will only get better.
“He has a physical presence. You can get the ball up to him and he can keep hold of it. It’s hard to be a central defender against him when he is looking for you first and he buys himself half a yard just by that movement.
“Sometimes our young boys, they are not used to that from the academy. They are used to, ‘You’re not allowed to tackle me’ almost. So, of course, I would like them to look at him and learn a couple of things.”