Odion Ighalo has insisted he is “so happy” he was able to represent Manchester United but admits he left his dream club due to a lack of game time.
The 31-year-old joined from Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua in January last year on an initial six-month loan.
The former Watford striker’s deal was then extended in June 2020 until January this year, when he left for Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab after scoring five goals in 23 appearances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Ighalo revealed he continues to love the club he supported as a boy “with all my heart” but desired more of a role than his peripheral status at United.
Asked if he could have stayed beyond January this year, Ighalo said: “There wasn’t much possibility because I wanted more playing time. At my age, I want to play and not just sit on the bench and not have any minutes.
“I didn’t just want to be there picking up a salary – I wanted to be involved so I said to my agent that if an offer comes in, I will look at it and see what’s best for me, which is what I did.
“I’m so happy that my path crossed with Manchester United – it’s the club I love with all my heart and for all my life so playing for them was a big privilege that I do not take for granted.
“No matter the circumstances that led me to leave, I will always be grateful to the coach, my team-mates, the fans, and everyone around Manchester United.
“After my initial loan was extended, I did not play much which was perhaps a bit unfair but as I said, I am always grateful for the opportunity.”
However, while remaining part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s was not an avenue he considered pursuing, Ighalo did reveal West Ham and West Brom both made offers to keep him in the Premier League.
Yet the former Nigeria international felt he had achieved his ambitions having played for his ‘dream’ club.
“Yeah, there was the possibility of West Ham and West Brom to stay in the Premier League, which I thought about,” he added.
“But after being at Manchester United, the biggest club in England if not the world, what else could I possibly do in the Premier League?
“I had good offers to stay in England, but I just didn’t think I could stay after achieving my dream of playing for the club I had supported since I was young.”