Opinion / 4 February 2020, 11:30am / Minenhle Mkhize
The creme de la creme of Africa’s A-list footballers have dazzled the masses in European football but not at Manchester United, who are regarded as one of the top clubs globally.
The Red Devils are no longer the formidable force they once were under the tutelage of the majestic Sir Alex Ferguson.
But even though the club is going through torrid times, the Red Devils remain one of the giants in English and world wide.
History shows that African players don’t make it at the Theatre of Dreams, as Old Trafford, the home of Man United, is known.
Top players have arrived with huge expectations but none of them have lived up to those expectations despite arriving at the club with huge reputations.
Do you remember the talented Cameroon midfielder Erick Djemba Djemba? Yes, the one who arrived at Old Trafford in 2003 as a replacement for Roy Keane.
His advancement at Manchester United was stifled. Djemba Djemba was the central figure for the Indomitable Lions as they lifted back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) titles in 2000 and 2002.
He was the talk of the town in that period. A household name in African football.
But his career didn’t take off during his stint with Man United. He is not the only one to fail at Old Trafford.
Can Nigerian talisman Odion Ighalo end the failure of African players at Old Trafford or is the hoodoo set to continue?
His move to Manchester astonished the masses. No one saw that coming. He was in China and a forgotten man in Europe.
But on deadline day, Ighalo secured a last-minute move to United. Obviously he is under pressure to deliver but there are huge expectations as the likes of Djemba Djemba, Manucho and Quinton Fortune found out.
A lot of people in the football fraternity have written off Ighalo. They have described his move as a gamble.
Maybe he can use that to his advantage. The Nigerian is not new to England. No so long ago, he was in the books of Watford.
Most players thrive when the world is against them but the only way he can silence his critics is by scoring goals. His audition at Manchester is six months so Ighalo has an opportunity to make a name for himself and prove that African players can make it at Old Trafford.
Manucho couldn’t find his mojo in Manchester. He joined the Red Devils in 2008 after his successful Afcon in Ghana. Manucho only featured in one game in his unsuccessful stay with the English giants.
Ighalo has an opportunity to become the Didier Drogba of United or Samuel Eto’o of the Red Devils.
Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah are the darlings at Merseyside. Drogba was a pillar of strength for Chelsea for so many years. Pierre Aubameyang is a source of inspiration for Arsenal.
Is Ighalo the man to restore parity for Africans at Old Trafford? Only time will tell but the eyes of the football world will be on him to deliver in the next few months.