Goal of the Month focus: Ighalo v LASK
The difference between the two goals was night and day.
Whereas Scott McTominay’s 40-yard effort to kill off Manchester City the previous Sunday had been met with a visceral roar from the masses huddled beneath the pouring rain, United’s next goal, scored four days later and 1,000 miles away in Austria, was celebrated in front of a wall of silence.
But the strange circumstances surrounding the behind-closed-doors game at the Linzer Stadion shouldn’t take anything away from Odion Ighalo’s magnificent opener in our 5-0 win over LASK.
Goal of the Month: Ighalo v LASKVideo
In the absence of Anthony Martial, injured during the Manchester derby win, Ighalo started for only the third time since his January loan move.
In those previous two starts, he’d managed three goals – all three inside-the-box finishes, scored thanks to that knack that all good strikers have: appearing in the right place at the right time.
The Nigerian had already started to establish himself as a fan favourite at his temporary club, but he was still missing a seminal strike, a belter that could be replayed countless times on YouTube and reposted on Twitter for weeks, months and possibly even years to come.
On Thursday 12 March, in Linz, he scored one.
Bruno Fernandes will be the first to admit his pass into Odion wasn’t perfect. The Nigerian, previously in space, glances LASK’s no.7, Rene Renner, bearing down on him out of the corner of his eye.
As Renner’s fellow defenders press in on Ighalo from the other side, the Nigerian’s striking instincts, honed in Nigeria and Norway and developed further in Italy, England and China, kick in.
His controlling touch, with his right foot, is deliberately heavy.
The ball loops on to Ighalo’s left, and Renner twists his body to react. You think: now, surely, now is when the shot will come.
Watch our 10 nominees for Goal of the MonthVideo
But no, we go back to the right: this time a slight cushion, which again outfoxes Renner.
And now Ighalo unleashes from 20 yards out. Before most know what’s happened, the ball’s nestling in the back of the net.
Having been brought up on a diet of Sky Sports’ Premier League Years, the effort reminds me of two great strikers of years gone by.
The neat, controlled build-up play is Dennis Bergkamp all over, while the finish screams Tony Yeboah – there’s even a glance of the crossbar thrown in for good measure which, as we all know, adds a nice embellishment to any goal.
It was just unfortunate that no travelling Reds were permitted inside the ground to see it.
In the weeks and months to come, as we adapt to a suddenly live sport-free landscape, supporters will seek out moments from the past to cherish.
And, in the last game Manchester United might play for a while, in an alien environment with little cheer, Ighalo gave us another memory to cling on to, until football returns once more.