Odion Ighalo celebrated his first goal in Manchester United colours by dedicating it to his late sister Mary Atole, who sadly passed away on December 12. His goal helped Manchester United lodge a comfortable 5-0 win against Club Brugge in the second leg of the round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League.
United, for a majority of duration, played against 10 men after Brugge's Simon Delli was sent off just 22 minutes in the game after he deliberately intervened a shot from Daniel James in the box. January signing Bruno Fernandes scored from the spot and Ighalo eventually made two in no time. Scott McTominay, returning from injury, scored his side's third and a brace from Fred capped off a five-star performance from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.
🇳🇬 Odion Ighalo grew up supporting Manchester United. It was his dream to play for Manchester United, he's the first ever Nigerian to score for #mufc and dedicated the goal to his sister who recently passed away. What an incredible moment for him. 👑 pic.twitter.com/EgwDFubm7R— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) February 27, 2020
When Ighalo was loaned in by United in the winter transfer window, it was heavily criticised by the fans. Ighalo, 30, was playing in Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, his second club in China after three years in Watford. His neat finish in the 34th minute after some brilliant movement by Bruno Fernandes and Juan Mata was followed by a heart-wrenching celebration when he displayed his sister's image in a shirt he was wearing inside.
Odion Ighalo dedicated his first United goal to his sister who died in December ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ESZK8ryRCw— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 27, 2020
Ighalo, the first Nigerian to score for Manchester United, said after the match that Mary was also a fan of Manchester United. "She was a good United fan too. We hoped for this moment but now I’m at United, she’s not here to see what is going on...It’s emotional. I have promised myself that every goal I score, I’ll dedicate it to her. She’s up there watching me", he said as his joy was quickly taken over by a feeling of irreplaceable loss.
Mary's unfortunate demise came after she collapsed in her home in Canada in December. For Ighalo, he has promised to dedicate his goals at Old Trafford in her memory.
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In the post-match press conference after the complete domination, coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sang praises of the frontman, and talking about his ability to sniff a goal-scoring situation and characteristic of a true striker, he said;
"You can see he sniffs goals, he wants to be there, where it sometimes hurts. That goal, he was sharp in his head and as that ball is played over to Juan, he spins and was on the six-yard line when Juan puts it there. That’s a natural striker."
1 - Odion Ighalo is the first African player to score for Manchester United in all competitions since Eric Bailly in August 2017 against Swansewa in the Premier League. Super. #UEFAEuropaLeague pic.twitter.com/CdX1mEuBsT— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 27, 2020
Odion Ighalo, a journeyman for most of his career, has finally scored his first goal for the Red Devils, something that he would like to keep adding on. With Anthony Martial out due to a knee injury and Marcus Rashford out with a long-term back injury, the onus will be on Ighalo to stay on target. The return of McTominay has brought added balance to the side and allowed Fernandes and Mata to play more freely, weaving tricks every now and then. Ighalo will try to draw strength from the pain and make his sister proud.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @Sporf