Manchester United could be forced to release Odion Ighalo before the end of the season if the campaign is extended beyond May due to coronavirus.
The on loan striker’s contract runs until May 31 – meaning United will have to try to secure a permanent deal or seek Premier League dispensation to extend it further.
But with Ighalo’s parent club Shanghai Shenhua potentially back in action before football resumes in this country, there are no guarantees they will agree to a transfer.
No option to buy was included in the 30-year-old’s deadline day move in January. And privately United sources believed a permanent transfer was unlikely given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ’s pursuit of a top class centre forward and Ighalo’s salary in China – believed to be worth around £300,000-a-week.
But he has made a spectacular impact at Old Trafford – scoring four goals in three starts and proving a positive influence in the dressing room.
Solskjaer’s scouts drew up a list of up to five striking options for the January or summer windows.
Erling Braut Haaland was the primary target, before he completed a move to Borussia Dortmund, with Moussa Dembele and Timo Werner now under consideration.
But United are increasingly looking at Ighalo as a cut price alternative.
Solskjaer admitted earlier this month that the Nigeria international was forcing his way into a move.
“Odion has come in really well and he will improve and get better,” he said. “But he has qualities we saw in him and needed and we need those qualities for next season.
“He’s a goal-scorer and a striker. He doesn’t worry too much about all that nonsense, build-up play – that’s a joke obviously.
“He knows his job and role in the team, and he’s very good with his back to goal.
“He’s a great link player, but maybe the best thing about him is his personality. He’s got the whole lot really.”