Odion Ighalo.

Ighalo inspired by Wembley heartbreak

Odion Ighalo is understandably more determined than ever to help Manchester United reach the 2020 FA Cup final, having missed out on the chance to play in the famous showpiece – ironically against the Reds – back in 2016.

The 31-year-old was part of the Watford team which narrowly lost out to United’s eventual final opponents, Crystal Palace, with the Reds going on to famously win the trophy thanks to Jesse Lingard’s extra-time winner.

Ighalo recalls that defeat to the Eagles as “a bitter one to take” and, having helped United make it to the last four this time, with the opener in the victory at Norwich City in the last round, he’s hoping to experience a different Wembley semi-final outcome when the Reds take on Chelsea at teatime on Sunday.

“It was a difficult one to take against Crystal Palace, we lost 2-1 at Wembley. If we’d have won, we’d have played United in the final,” he recalled, when he chatted to MUTV’s Mark Sullivan ahead of Sunday’s game. “Unfortunately, we lost. It was a bitter one to take but this is an opportunity again in an FA Cup semi-final to make it right and go forward to the final. If I’m called to play, I’m going to give all I can to help the team win the game.

Odion Ighalo at Waford.
Odion Ighalo is crestfallen after losing out in the semi-final with Watford.

“Everybody wants to play against teams like Chelsea, big teams, and play well against them and, most of all, playing at Wembley and, you know if you win, you’re in the final. So, of course, it’s going to give you more to want to fight hard and make sure you give everything to win the game.

“To get to the final would be great for me in my life and my career. I missed out in 2016 and I have the opportunity to now get to the final with the club I’ve supported all my life. It would make my dreams perfect. It will be tough but we have what it takes.

“We have beaten them three times this season I think, one in the Carabao Cup and two in the league, and we’re playing them now in the semi-final. All those games don’t count though,” he added. “This is a different game which is going to be even tougher without the fans in stadium. We have to fight from the first minute until the end. It’s always tough against them but I think, with the quality and momentum we have now, we are ready to go and to win against any team.”

It was Ighalo’s opener in the quarter-final clash at Norwich last month which set United on our way to reaching the last four. Since then, the Reds have been in free-flowing goalscoring form and Ighalo says he is both enjoying seeing his fellow forwards in such fine fettle and is training hard to ensure he is ready whenever he may be needed to support them in attack.

“They are doing so well,” he said, when asked about the recent goal exploits of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood. “Seeing them playing every week is a joy. Rashford has come back from his injury and is doing well. Martial is scoring goals, Mason Greenwood is unbelievable, he is such a good finisher with both feet.

Ighalo's Norwich showreelVideo

“The team is doing well and the three forwards are scoring goals and that’s what we need - goals win games. And I don’t forget Bruno [Fernandes] with the assists and goals too. I think the mentality is getting stronger every time.

“As a professional, you have to be ready, you have to have that mental strength to be ready,” he continued. “We train hard to keep fit and I’m always ready when I’m called upon, and I will give 100 per cent. You always have to stay focused.”

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