When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signed Odion Ighalo on loan from the Chinese Super League during January, there were audible sniggers from Merseyside to Melbourne. The Baby Faced Assassin wanted to add another dimension, particularly after losing Romelu Lukaku last summer.
The pace of Marcus Rashford, Antony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Daniel James has proven deadly on the counter-attack, especially in the big games. What has been missing, though, is breaking down teams who park ten men behind the ball. Bruno Fernandes’ addition has definitely helped in that regard, while Ighalo’s physicality definitely keeps defenders occupied, while his presence brings something different to the table.
With the completion of the season now in doubt, Ighalo’s short stay at Old Trafford could be coming to an end. It is unlikely that the Nigerian international will stay beyond his current loan deal, meaning he could have already played his last Red Devils game.
The main focus appears to be on completing the signings of Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish to fit in with the high energy style. However, a replacement for Ighalo will also be high on the list for priorities. The club will be looking for someone who would be content not to start every game and to make an impact when called upon.
Enter, Alexander Isak. The Swedish forward is currently at Real Sociedad in La Liga and having a great season. Having to overcome comparisons to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his early days back in Sweden looked to have proved too heavy a burden, with his big-money move to Borussia Dortmund not working out as expected. He was subsequently loaned to Willem II in the Eredivisie and despite shining, was deemed surplus to requirements in Germany.
However, like many young players, they need time to develop and to do so with less pressure upon their shoulders. This season Isak has 7 goals in La Liga and a further 7 goals in 7 games in the Copa Del Rey. This included 2 goals at the Bernabeu to knock out Real Madrid. He then followed this up by netting the winner from the bench in the big Basque derby against Athletic Bilbao.
At just 20 years of age Isak has great potential, with his best years ahead of him. He is tall, physical and skilful. Like Zlatan he hails from an immigrant background, coming from Eritrean parentage. But unlike Zlatan, Isak appears more quiet and grounded. He likes to do all of his talking on the pitch.
He is currently playing some of the best football of his career and Europe’s big guns are starting to take note once more. With Ighalo’s loan deal coming to an end, Solskjaer would be best keeping tabs on one of Scandinavia’s hottest prospects to fill the void.
The youngster would fit in well with the current group of players, while having a £20m market value (Transfermarkt) wouldn’t make him overly expensive, either.
Isak is still improving and learning his game, while he’d be a longer-term option than Ighalo who looks to be out of the exit door…