THE NUMBERS GAME: Ighalo outshining Manchester United's former targets

THE NUMBERS GAME: Manchester United may have tried to land more big-name strikers in January but Odion Ighalo is averaging more goals than Edinson Cavani and creating chances more regularly than Erling Haaland

  • Odion Ighalo was not Manchester United’s firstchoice of striker back in January
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scoured the market in his search for a new forward
  • Although he wasn’t first choice, Ighalo arrived from China and has impressed
  • But how does he compare to the other strikers United were heavily linked with? 

The dramatic drop in Manchester United’s pulling power became clear in January when, after weeks of searching for a new striker, Odion Ighalo was the best they could do.

He had scored 40 goals in 100 appearances for Watford, an admirable total, but had then seemingly cast aside his best days when he left English football for the financial rewards on offer in China.

But then, almost out of nowhere, Ighalo was handed a move to Old Trafford in the final days of the January window with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer desperate for attacking cover and a raft of Europe’s elite strikers still not convinced about joining his rebuild. 

Odion Ighalo arrived at Manchester United in the January window but was not their first choice

The former Watford striker scored a brace in United’s routine FA Cup win over Derby this week

There was concrete interest, like nearly all of Europe’s leading clubs, in signing Erling Haaland from Red Bull Salzburg and Solskjaer even went to speak to the Norwegian prodigy in December but instead he opted for Borussia Dortmund.

Edinson Cavani was also on United’s radar after falling down the pecking order at Paris Saint-Germain but his eyes were firmly fixed on Atletico Madrid and it seems not much consideration was given to United at all.

Norwich’s Teemu Pukki was another target after his impressive start to life in the Premier League but no goals since January shows United probably dodged a bullet.

Late moves were also considered for Bournemouth’s Joshua King, a red hot Danny Ings at Southampton, Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, Poland striker Krzysztof Piatek, Leicester flop Islam Slimani and Croatian Nikola Kalinic.

Erling Haaland was wanted by United but the Norwegian starlet opted for Dortmund instead

Edinson Cavani was more focused on Atletico Madrid but ended up staying in Paris anyway

But in the end it was Ighalo who walked through the door, proudly declaring it was ‘a dream come true’ as he posed with the famous red shirt. But just over a month has passed since he arrived and it has not exactly been plain sailing.

The Nigerian missed United’s winter training camp in Marbella over coronavirus fears and had to wait until February 17 to make his debut, coming on for the final stages of the win at Chelsea.

In the six games that have followed Ighalo has played 232 minutes in total. He has scored three goals, one against Club Brugge in the Europa League and two in Thursday night’s FA Cup win at Derby and his all-round play has been good, offering United a different type of threat in attack.

But how has Ighalo compared to the raft of other strikers United tried to buy in January since he completed his move?  

Ighalo came off the bench again for United at Everton last week but couldn’t make an impact

Ighalo has played the third fewest amount of minutes in comparison to the other nine strikers Sportsmail has used for comparison across all competitions. 

At 232 minutes he has only played more than Roma new boy Kalinic and Bournemouth’s Joshua King but Ighalo has already made the most of his time on the pitch it seems in comparison to his rivals.

But his three goals give him an impressive minutes per goal figure of 77. That is better than all of the nine strikers mentioned apart from Haaland since February 1. 

Ighalo has a better goal-scoring ration than Giroud, Ings, King, Piatek, Slimani, Cavani and Kalinic since he completed his move. 

Ighalo had a great chance to nudge United in front but saw his effort saved by Jordan Pickford

But to get a more in-depth look at Ighalo’s performances at United, Sportsmail chose to look at the data more thoroughly, using metrics that only take into account player data from the top five domestic leagues and the two major European competitions.

Excluding Thursday night’s FA Cup win at Derby, Ighalo has made five appearances for United (two in the Europa League and three in the Premier league).

He has only managed eight shots in those games, which is understandable given he has come off the bench in most of them. Cavani leads the way with 16 shots while Haaland has taken 15.

The Uruguayan is also the only man to have a better minutes per shot ratio than Ighalo with the Nigerian trying his luck once every 17.8 minutes. Cavani (17) just narrowly edges him. 

From those shots Ighalo (13 per cent) has one of the better conversion rate figures too. King has scored one goal from one shot since February 1, giving him the best conversion rate of 100 per cent. 

Haaland (40 per cent), Kalinic (50 per cent) and Slimani (15 per cent) are the only others to beat Ighalo.  

With Marcus Rashford out injured, Ighalo could be crucial to United over the coming months

Ighalo is yet to register an assist for United but is creating chances for his team-mates in his fleeting appearances.

So much so that he is creating a chance every 47.3 minutes for the likes of Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes.

That is significantly better than Haaland who, despite his stunning form in front of goal, has is creating an opportunity once every 113.3 minutes.

Ighalo is also creating more often than Cavani (68), Ings (67.3), and Piatek (71.8).

United are still in the hunt for a place in next season’s Champions League, into the last-16 of the Europa League and through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. 

With Marcus Rashford still sidelined with a back injury, Ighalo could be crucial for Solskjaer in the coming months. Ighalo may not have been the striker United wanted but the early signs suggest they’ll be glad he’s the one they got. 

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article