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‘It’s Hard To See This Dream End’ – Odion Ighalo Confirms Man United Exit

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Nigerian forward, Odion Ighalo on Tuesday, January 26 confirmed his exit from Manchester United, penning a farewell post in which he described playing for the Premier League side as the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

“It’s so hard to see this dream come to an end,” the former Watford striker who joined United from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on the final day of the January 2020 transfer window posted on his Instagram handle.

“But I give God the glory for helping me fulfill this life long dream of putting on a Manchester United shirt as a player and represent this great club, it was indeed an honor I will forever cherish and be grateful for.”

Ighalo who scored five goals in 23 games in all competitions for the Red Devils was also thankful to the club manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for believing in him even as he lauded his teammates for making his time at United exciting and full of fun.

READ ALSO: Arsenal Sign Real Madrid’s Odegaard On Loan

“And I pray we win the LEAGUE and FA cup this year,” Ighalo added, a few days after the side beat bitter rivals Liverpool to advance to the next stage of the FA Cup.

“To the best fans in the world ( the Manchester United fans ) we have missed you, but we hear your voices cheering us on from afar, we can’t wait to have you all back on the stands.

“I’m still and would remain a MANCHESTER UNITED FAN forever. Once a Red, always a Red🔴 Thank you @manchesterunited and God bless 🔴🔴🔴🙏🏾.”

 

 

The Old Trafford side equally tweeted hours later to congratulate Ighalo for living his childhood dream.

‘First Nigerian’

“@IghaloJude lived his boyhood dream,” Manchester United tweeted on their official handle on Wednesday. “He pulled on the famous red shirt. He scored at in front of a packed Old Trafford. He was the first Nigerian to represent the club.

“Nothing will ever change that. Thank you and good luck, Odion — you’ll always be a Red.”

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) highest goalscorer was initially handed a six-month deal but the contract was later extended to one year after the English League was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ighalo became the first Nigerian to play for the Premier League team and will return to the Chinese Super League side when his contract officially ends on January 31st, 2021.

A number of clubs in Europe and others in the US Major League Soccer (MLS) are reportedly interested in the services of the Nigerian forward.

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La Liga: Dembele’s Late Winner Pushes Barca Closer To Atletico

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Ousmane Dembele volleyed in a 90th-minute winner against Real Valladolid on Monday to fire Barcelona to within a point of Atletico Madrid ahead of next weekend’s Clasico in La Liga.

Barca looked set for a damaging stalemate at Camp Nou after Atletico’s defeat by Sevilla on Saturday but Valladolid had Oscar Plano harshly sent off with 12 minutes left and Dembele snatched a 1-0 victory.

His strike could prove a crucial moment in the Spanish title race, with Barca now breathing down Atletico’s necks ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Real Madrid, who are three points off the top.

If Ronald Koeman’s men win at Valdebebas, they will claim first place for 24 hours at least, before a depleted and deflated Atletico play away at Real Betis on Sunday.

They will have to play better after being frustrated by a determined Valladolid side, with Lionel Messi delivering some firm words to his team-mates in the tunnel at half-time.

READ ALSO: Operatives Prevented Gunmen From Looting Imo Command Armoury – Police

“We have to step it up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm,” Messi said. “If not it’s going to get complicated for us.”

It might have been more complicated had Plano not been shown a red card in the 78th minute, his hack on Dembele from behind giving Barca a crucial advantage for the final stages.

Victory makes it six in a row for them in La Liga, another win – particularly after an unconvincing performance – enhancing the sense that momentum now lies with Atletico’s rivals.

Defeat also compounded what Valladolid coach Sergio admitted on Sunday had already been a “sh**ty week” after five of his players tested positive for Covid-19, leaving him without 12 players, with six others injured and one more suspended.

To mark Messi breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record for the club, he was presented with a framed shirt before kick-off, which he accepted with his family on the pitch. Messi passed Xavi’s previous record of 767 appearances last month, with this his 769th.

Valladolid were not just able to compete in the first half, they were probably the better side and could have led when Kenan Kodro’s early header struck the bar.

Dembele broke through and dragged back for Messi, whose shot was blocked, while Pedri’s long-range effort fizzed through and came back off the post.

But Barcelona were flat, their passing predictable and there was concern in Messi’s voice when he told his teammates to find a different gear in the second half.

Valladolid were almost undone by a Messi through ball for Dembele, who held his run but could not finish before the leaping Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound wide.

Barcelona looked more dangerous on the break than in possession and they were lucky to escape a penalty when Oscar Plano poked the ball onto the outstretched hand of Jordi Alba.

Koeman made three changes shortly after, Martin Braithwaite, Francisco Trincao and Ronald Araujo replacing Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Oscar Mingueza.

But Barca’s biggest boost came 12 minutes from the end, when Plano was sent off for chasing Dembele back and tripping the Frenchman from behind. A yellow card seemed the more obvious decision.

Trincao went close and the winner came in the last minute as Frenkie de Jong’s cross was flicked to the back post by Ronald Aruajo. Dembele was free and lashed into the corner.

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Osimhen Returns To Naples After Nasty Head Knock

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Victor Osimhen is expected back in Naples on Monday evening despite the Napoli forward having to be hospitalised after banging his head on the ground during his side’s Serie A defeat at Atalanta.

Nigeria striker Osimhen was stretchered off the pitch unconscious towards the end of Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Bergamo after hitting his head following a clash with Cristian Romero.

The 22-year-old came round as he was transported to a hospital in the northern Italian city where tests revealed head trauma, and Napoli said in a statement that he would be returning south.

“Victor Osimhen is due to return to Naples on Monday evening after staying in Bergamo overnight as a precaution… The player will undergo further assessment on Tuesday.”

Osimhen joined Napoli for a club-record fee from Lille last summer, and returned to action last month after being sidelined for over two months with a shoulder injury and coronavirus.

Despite a promising start to the season he has scored just two goals for the club.

Napoli fell to their third defeat in five league games as Atalanta warmed-up for their Champions League clash with Real Madrid to move fourth in Serie A.

Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli are seventh, three points off the Champions League places, with pressure on the coach after his team lost the first leg of their Europa League tie with Granada 2-0 last week.

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Arsenal Boss Arteta Hails Man City As ‘Best In Europe’

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Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.

“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.

“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”

City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years

Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.

“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”

The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”

Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.

Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.

“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.

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