Manchester United could be deprived of Odion Ighalo before the end of the season after the Premier League reiterated its intention to finish the campaign.
All professional matches in English football have been postponed until April 30, but the Football Association has agreed to an indefinite extension for the season to conclude in order to maintain the integrity of the competitions. Should club football in England resume on April 30, there will have been a seven-week period without matches.
The FA’s rules and regulations state ‘the season shall terminate not later than the 1 June’ and Premier League clubs have either nine or 10 fixtures left to play. The likelihood is matches would continue well into July and Ighalo’s short-term loan contract with United expires on June 30. United have refused to comment on Ighalo’s contract situation and the Nigerian would be under no obligation to play for them after his contract ends but an extension could be arranged.
Fifa said it is monitoring the issue of players’ contracts in a statement last week: “FIFA is analysing the current situation and the potential impact it may have on all areas of football, including player contracts. More information will follow in due course.”
Ighalo’s parent club Shanghai Shenhua were due to start their Chinese Super League season on February 22 but the start date was pushed back following the outbreak of the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan.
Meanwhile, Ighalo has said he could not afford to have a Manchester United player’s name on the back of his shirt when he was growing up in Nigeria.
Boyhood United fan Ighalo, 30, joined the club on loan for the rest of the season from Shanghai Shenhua in January and has already scored four goals in three starts.
Following the announcement of the deal, Ighalo’s agent, Atta Aneke, posted an old photograph of his client wearing the 2005-06 blue United away shirt that Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo donned in the League Cup-winning season. The shirt was only used for a year in that form since United switched their shirt sponsorship from Vodafone to AIG in 2006. United retained the blue kit in 2006-07 with the AIG logo.
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were Ighalo’s idols when he was growing up but the pair left United for Blackburn Rovers in 2001 and 2002. “I had a United jersey but no player name on the back,” he told the United magazine.
“It was one of the old blue ones but definitely no name on the back. You have to pay to put names on the back and there was no money to pay for that! I just got the United top.
“It was a blue one but a long time ago. I can’t remember [which season] as I was very, very young.”
Ighalo did a tour of Old Trafford in 2013 and started for Watford in their 1-0 defeat at United in March 2016. John Obi Mikel was poised to become the first Nigerian to play for United when he signed a contract with the club in 2005, but Mikel soon expressed his desire to play for Chelsea and United ended up pocketing £12million from the Stamford Bridge club.
United supporters have quickly warmed to Ighalo, who has fond memories of watching the team in Nigeria. “It’s good. You have to go to an event centre and pay to watch the games.
“Any time United were playing, I’d go with my siblings. You’d have to pay to watch the games and now people are watching me and United. It is a big fanbase and it is growing even bigger.
“Everybody is sending me messages saying they can’t wait to see me and watch the United games. I am very happy about that.”