Paul Merson believes Odion Ighalo would be foolish to turn down a permanent move to Manchester United and return to parent club Shanghai Shenhua at the end of the season.
Eyebrows were raised when United completed a loan agreement for Ighalo on the final day of the January transfer window but the 30-year-old striker has proved his doubters wrong thus far, racking up four goals and one assist in his opening eight appearances for the team.
The Red Devils are already considering making Ighalo’s deal permanent for a fee of £15million in the summer and reports suggest the Nigerian, a lifelong United fan, is keen to stay on at Old Trafford even if that means accepting a paycut.
However, Shanghai Shenhua have not given up hope of Ighalo returning to China and have offered the forward £400,000-a-week wages to stay on with them.
Discussing Ighalo’s impressive start at United, Merson told Sky Sports: ‘When Odion Ighalo arrived at Manchester United in January, I didn’t really want to get involved in any conversations about him because, either way, there was a danger of being made to look silly. ‘
If you said he was going to be awful he could embarrass you badly by performing like he did during that brilliant year he had with Watford or if you said he was going to be a good signing, he could still be the player who put in some awful showings just before he left Watford.
‘I didn’t want to get involved in that because it was a no-win situation. However, what I can say now is that he’s been absolutely outstanding since he arrived at Old Trafford. ‘I know he hasn’t played a lot of football but when he’s come off the bench and when he has got some game time, he’s looked class.’
On whether United should sign the Nigeria international on a permanent basis, Merson added: ‘It’s a hard decision Manchester United have to make regarding his future because if you give him a contract, can he perform again that next season? ‘When you go to a club on loan you’ve got that hunger of wanting to secure a permanent move, prove everybody inside the club right and everybody outside the club wrong.
” All of a sudden, you give someone a contract and they think they’ve done all the hard work.
You’ve only got to look at his time at Watford. He looked a world-beater but then next minute he couldn’t score a goal for toffee. But if you are going on the form he’s showed since coming to the club in January it’s going to be hard to get rid of him – and don’t worry about the new mega money offers in China.
‘He’s said all the right things since joining Manchester United. He’s turned around enough times and said he’s dreamed of playing for United so if they do offer him a permanent deal, I can’t see him turning it down. ‘Everything’s gone right for him so far and if United do offer him a chance to stay, I’d be shocked if he walked away.’