On loan Manchester United striker, Odion Ighalo, has showered praises on Wayne Rooney ahead of tonight’s FA Cup tie with Derby County.
The Nigerian believes Red Devils all-time leading goalscorer, who joined the Championship side in January, has boosted the Rams with his experience and fighting qualities.
And Ighalo has warned the Reds that Philip Cocu’s outfit will go into tonight’s game with a renewed sense of belief, thanks, in part, to Rooney’s exemplary record in front of goal.
“Wayne Rooney is always an idol, like many players at United,” Ighalo said in an interview at Old Trafford earlier this week.
“He’s a good guy. He is a fighter on the pitch, he fights until the end, from the start until the finish. He’s somebody I’ve seen that never gives up in the game, and he’s a good goalscorer.
“A little chance, a little space, he’s going to score. He can shoot from outside, he can score in the box, he can score from anywhere.
“He’s a great player. Good techniques, he has a good shot, good runs and, when Derby County have Wayne Rooney in their team, it gives them more confidence because he has done a lot in football and in England.”
Ighalo could make his first appearance for the Reds in the FA Cup, although the Nigerian does have history in the famous old tournament.
The centre-forward played for Watford in their 2-1 semi-final loss to Crystal Palace in 2016, the year we last won the competition.
Despite that defeat denying him his dream of coming up against Louis van Gaal’s side in the showpiece event, he has good memories of stepping out at Wembley Stadium and wants to repeat the feat later in the season.
“That was my first time playing in Wembley, it was a great experience,” Odion continues.
“United got to the final that year, I remember because I was hoping we would win against Crystal Palace so we could play against Man United in the final.
“That dream did not come to pass but it’s a great experience, you know. Playing in Wembley, not every player has the opportunity to play in Wembley in their career. You have to play in a cup game, a cup final or play for the national team to play there.
“I had the opportunity to play for Watford there in the semi-final, so it was a great experience and I’m looking forward, hopefully, to be playing there again.”
United and Ighalo are, of course, hunting for a record-equalling 13th cup triumph.
Arsenal are currently the side with the most overall successes in the competition, and Ighalo recalled our famous battles with the Gunners – the 1999 and 2004 semi-finals, as well as the disappointing 2005 final defeat – fondly.
“I watched Man United a lot, their rivalry with Arsenal for the FA Cup.
“So it’s a great thing watching it and now playing in the FA Cup, which I did with Watford but now, hopefully, I want to try to go far and win it, if possible for me, to crown my success here with the team.”