Odion Ighalo claims he “never imagined” that his childhood dream of playing for Manchester United would ever come true, despite the fact he has followed the club religiously throughout his professional career.
United snapped Ighalo up on a six-month loan deal from Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day in January, in a move which raised more than a few eyebrows across English football.
The Nigerian had spent the last three years of his career in China, with his only previous experience of the Premier League coming at Watford between 2014 and 2017.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer justified his decision to bring in the 30-year-old by talking up his qualities as a target man, with United previously lacking natural centre-forward options.
With Marcus Rashford out injured, Ighalo has provided invaluable cover for Anthony Martial through the middle, netting four goals in his first three starts for the club.
Ighalo has openly admitted to being a lifelong Red Devils supporter, but he never truly believed his dreams of turning out for the club would ever come to fruition.
“When you say those kinds of things (about playing for United when he was a child), people say ‘are you crazy?’ because back then you don’t even know what the future holds”.
“First you just want to go outside the country to start playing – even for a small team, not even to talk of going to United.
“But my support for the team was great. I tried to see every game of United every weekend if possible. I still remember those memories.
“I never imagined it was going to turn out this way. Even when I played in the Premier League for Watford, I never thought this was going to happen.”
When asked who he looked up to as a youngster when watching United enjoy the most successful period in their history, Ighalo responded: “I watched Andy Cole growing up.
“Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, they were two strikers at United who used to score goals.
“They were very strong and scored a lot of goals.”
Ighalo’s latest strike for United came in a 5-0 demolition of LASK in a Europa League last-16 first-leg tie in Austria last week, which was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.
All European competitions have since been suspended, with UEFA officials set to meet on Tuesday to discuss plans for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign.