Mark Hughes has backed Manchester United’s surprise loan move for Odion Ighalo, describing the striker as the type of player the club needs. The 30-year-old has joined on a six-month loan from Shanghai Shenua with United needing cover up front after the back injury suffered by Marcus Rashford in January. The Nigeria international has been playing in the Chinese Super League since moving to Changchun Yatai from Watford in January 2017, but is now back in the Premier League with the Red Devils. Hughes, who played 467 times for United over two spells at the club, admits that the signing has come out of nowhere, but feels Ighalo will bring a physical presence to the team’s attack that it has been lacking.
‘I would probably think he is covered in bruises from pinching himself all day,’ Hughes told Sky Sports. ‘If it happens you have to be delighted for the boy because it’s a fantastic club to play for. If you get the opportunity to do it, not many get the chance to go there. ‘I think he’s the type of player that United need, whether or not that’s long-term. I’ve watched them on a number of occasions, both live and on TV, and whenever I do I feel they just lack that physicality at the top end of the pitch – just to relieve pressure.
‘The other night, when they were getting pressed by [Manchester] City really high in the first half, I always felt they needed an outlet so they could knock it up to a big man who could retain possession for them, resist challenges and bring other people into the game, allowing them a bit of time to get up the pitch. Without that physicality, it’s hard to get out.’ Ighalo played one full season in the Premier League with Watford, scoring 15 goals over the 2015-16 campaign. He moved to China in January 2017 and scored 36 times in 55 games for Changchun Yatai before his switch to Shanghai, where he netted 10 times in 17 appearances. Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explained the thinking behind bringing in the Nigerian: ‘Odion is an experienced player. He will come in and give us an option of a different type of centre-forward for the short spell he’s staying with us. ‘A great lad and very professional, he will make the most of his time here.’