Emotional Odion Ighalo said he fulfilled a lifetime dream after the boyhood Manchester United fan marked his full debut with a goal, even though it was tinged with sadness
Ighalo scored United’s second goal in a 5-0 Europa League second-leg round-of-32 win over 10-man Club Brugge at Old Trafford on Thursday.
The 30-year-old Nigeria striker celebrated by lifting up his United shirt to reveal a t-shirt which paid tribute to his sister Mary, who died in December.
Ighalo had taken a pay cut to secure a shock deadline-day loan move to United from Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua.
He told BT Sport: “It’s a big dream for me, yes. A great moment.
“I have been waiting for this, played three games, though I didn’t play much and no goals.
“There has been a little bit of pressure, but now I got a goal to start my Manchester United goal career and it is a team I have supported since I was young, so it is very good.
“I am very happy and I am grateful to God.”
Ighalo netted with a close-range finish from Juan Mata’s cutback after Bruno Fernandes had scored from the penalty spot.
Scott McTominay gave United a 3-0 half-time lead before midfield colleague Fred put a gloss on the result with two late goals.
Ighalo added: “The confidence was high and we spoke about that before the start. We pushed from the first minute and went all out playing our style.
“The red card was difficult for them with us attacking, and we worked hard until the last minute.”
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Ighalo’s penalty-box prowess post-game.
“He does exactly what it says on the tin,” he said. “He plays up front, he can play with his back to goal and the goal was a good example of what you want of him. He can hold up the ball and he is what we have been lacking a little bit.
“If we hadn’t had Odion tonight then Mason Greenwood would have had to play and we have a game on Sunday and that would put us in a tired position. We knew what we got when we signed him.”
United are now unbeaten in seven games in all competitions and Solskjaer believes Ighalo and fellow new boy Fernandes have helped boost confidence in the dressing room.
He added: “Today we played attacking football and players combined well. The players had a swagger, confidence and a smile on their faces. The new lads have brought that.”