Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand admits he was wrong about Odion Ighalo and says the Nigerian’s hold-up play offers the side something that neither Anthony Martial nor Marcus Rashford can provide.
The former Watford ace made it three goals in two starts for the Red Devils with a brace in the side’s 3-0 FA Cup win against Derby County on Thursday night.
United were widely mocked for their deadline day capture of the Nigerian and he certainly wasn’t the club’s first choice given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pursuit of Erling Haaland and Joshua King.
But Ighalo has dumfounded public opinion and his clear love for the club has endeared him to supporters, who have already taken him into their hearts.
And Ferdinand admits that he’s been won over by the Nigerian because he offers a different dimension to both Rashford and Martial.
‘People and myself included were probably thinking Odion Ighalo, where does he fit into all of this?’ said Ferdinand.
‘If you have an opportunity to sign a player at the beginning of the January window, he is not the guy you are going to sign but what he does bring is a point.
‘A point where they can focus and play into him from the midfield. He offers the platform to run off. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial want the ball in behind and not to bring people in.
‘When the ball gets played into him, if Rashford or Martial were there they wouldn’t have made themselves available like that,” he said over footage of his goal. To be there first is great considering the pressure he is under. He’s in the centre of goal and he’s a physical presence. That’s what he adds to this team.’
With Martial struggling with injury, Ighalo could be handed his first Premier League start in the Manchester derby on Sunday.
United are unbeaten in their last nine matches but City represent the greatest test of that run and they’ll be looking to consolidate second place behind Liverpool.
Harry Maguire faces a race against time to be fit for the clash at Old Trafford after missing the win at Pride Park with an ankle injury.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James are also doubts.