Odion Ighalo for Manchester United makes perfect sense only if viewed from a very narrow perspective.
With Marcus Rashford injured, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs goals back-up for Anthony Martial, who probably will never wholly convince as the go-to centre forward. A top-four finish is still eminently in play.
And the Shanghai Shenhua striker always looked due to step up from Watford after his 40 goals in 100 games. When his time to move came, China was a logical upgrade financially. If he scores five goals, it will have been a risk worth taking.
The signing of striker Odion Ighalo as a stop gap makes financial sense to Manchester United
It’s a short-term loan, with (in football’s parlance) relatively low wages and no commitment to buy. Given that executive chairman Ed Woodward has made so much great play of his cultural rebuild and the fact that the club will no longer be taken for a ride in the transfer market, this, as a stop gap, makes so much more sense than other options.
Losing Romelu Lukaku, 26, in the summer and signing Edinson Cavani, 32, on a two-and-a-half year contract on £300,000 a week would have been the really stupid move of a January window.
That would have pleased more fans on social media, however: Cavani is the kind of player United sign; Igahlo not. Yet that ignores United’s current status. The Europa League wannabees are not a major draw in Europe. They don’t have a super coach who can entice players with his sheer charisma. And they don’t offer the prospect of trophies. The only thing attractive about them is the wages they pay.
Igahlo was the only kind of option as United seek to reboot the process and the budget
And United have been down that route: Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Radamel Falcao were signings comparable to Cavani. United realised too late that recruitment is much more nuanced than assembling a fantasy team of star names with an A-list coach.
If they were to remain true to what they have preached since the summer – essentially that the club will take the short-term pain of a weakened squad in order to reboot the process and the budget – then Igahlo was the only kind of option.
Allowing Sanchez, Ander Herrera and Lukaku to go in the summer were part of a pruning process. That implies a degree of pain. Gary Neville said at the time that their departures left the club weaker in the short term but were correct decisions for the long term. If that seemed true in August, it remains true in February.