With game time limited and a host of interested parties looking to secure a deal for the Nigeria international, the time to leave Manchester is now
So much was promised from the Nigeria international. Around the same time as Marcus Rashford’s transition from development squad hopeful to Manchester United and England matchwinner in 2015, Iheanacho kept speed with his cross-city striking counterpart and more than held his own in the comparisons which naturally followed.
The future was supposed to be Iheanacho versus Rashford — blue versus red. But while the latter has since gone on to establish himself as an indispensable part of Jose Mourinho’s first-team squad at Old Trafford, across Manchester, the former’s career has nosedived.
Despite being directly involved in a goal every 74.9 minutes across all competitions for City since 2015-16 — 21 goals and seven assists — Iheanacho has been starved of first-team football by Pep Guardiola. Iheanacho managed just five Premier League starts last season under the Catalan, despite a spurt of goals in the first part of the campaign.
Through no fault of his own, his career has stagnated horribly and an Etihad exit now looks inevitable.
Guardiola has made Iheanacho available for transfer, with West Ham and Leicester pondering a move. The Hammers, also believed to be in for Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, are cautious of the buy-back clause City are demanding, however, with Southampton holding an outside chance of landing the forward.
On the face of it, West Ham’s madhouse of misfits may not appear an attractive proposition to Iheanacho – especially if reports of Giroud and former United and Real Madrid forward Javier Hernandez arriving ahead of the new season were to transpire.
The London club would have to fork out a substantial fee for the City graduate, however, which could push Slaven Bilic into building his attack around the pace of Iheanacho — an opportunity which could allow the Nigerian to thrive. Iheanacho’s speed and willingness to chase lost causes would lend itself to Bilic’s counter-attacking style of play, with several options available to work off of him.
The position Iheanacho finds himself at City is not necessarily a negative one. Still only 20, with his athleticism, international experience and one of the most clinical set of goalscoring statistics in the English top-flight, Iheanacho won’t find himself short of potential suitors even if a move to the London Stadium does not occur.
City’s addition of a buy-back clause may look an astute one down the line, though in truth it would take something spectacular for them to claw him back — the Etihad bigwigs are understandably keen to recoup as much money for Iheanacho as possible to conduct business elsewhere in the squad.
In short, Iheanacho’s style does not suit Guardiola’s blueprint. And, like Aguero earlier in the season, he has come to realise that more than goals are expected from the former Barcelona boss’ frontmen.
“You need to do more. You need to help the team do more,” Iheanacho revealed of Guardiola’s demands of him earlier in the season. “You need to press high, help your team-mates back and covering. And of course score goals.
“We have lots of quality players so you need to keep up. Everyone is doing great and bringing their best. You need to be on the same level, be at your best and help win the things that we need.”
Iheanacho, quite simply, cannot offer what others can defensively — he failed to register a single tackle or interception during his limited game time last season. That’s not a slight on the Nigerian, it’s simply not in his make-up.
« Kelechi is a young player who is clever in the box, he is strong, fast and has a sense of goal,” Guardiola said of Iheanacho when questioned on his lack of playing time. « Like I said before, at the end of the season we will talk about Kelechi and individual players. »
The time to speak about Iheanacho is now, ahead of the most significant decision of his short career to date.
Guardiola and his City staff will sit comfortably knowing Aguero and Jesus will come together to lead the attack next season. For Iheanacho, though, it must be the right move. It must be under the correct manager, and it must be an appropriate style of football. Whoever Iheanacho opts for, it must be now.
Premier League: Mu and Pogba return for a festival
For the last match of this Saturday in the Premier League, Manchester United hosted Newcastle at Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho’s men squashed the Magpies (4-1) thanks to goals scored by Martial, Smalling, Pogba and Lukaku.
This Manchester United-Newcastle had a special flavor for the Mancunian fans. Indeed, this meeting marked the combined returns of Paul Pogba, Marcos Rojo and especially Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If the first city was started by José Mourinho, the Argentine international and the Swedish giant started the match on the bench. It was necessary to wait for the seventh minute to glimpse a Mancunian opportunity. Marcus Rashford quickly played a free-kick and threw Valencia right side whose center found Lukaku. The recovery of the Belgian striker went well above (7th). To everyone’s surprise, the Magpies opened the scoring. On an excellent center Yedlin right side, Dwight Gayle crossed his shot and deceived De Gea (0-1, 14th). Galvanized by this opening of the score, the men of Rafael Benitez procured a new opportunity.
Murphy took advantage of Mancunian defensive mistakes to shoot a vicious shot that went right next (20th). Surprised by Newcastle’s intentions tonight, José Mourinho’s men were sorely lacking in inspiration. After purring for the first half hour, Manchester finally found the net. Paul Pogba had a right-side festival before centering for Martial’s header, which deceived Elliot (1-1, 37). Invigorated by their equalizer, the Red Devils went on to attack the Newcastle goals. On a Young center, Romelu Lukaku was unable to win the ball (42nd). MU took the advantage just before the break on an excellent center Ashley Young victoriously headed by Chris Smalling (2-1, 45 + 2).
Lukaku finds his way back to the net
Back in the locker room, Manchester was again enterprising. Shifted to the right, Lukaku center for Anthony Martial in the area that was procrastinating at the time of chaining (49th). The Red Devils took off on an illuminated counterattack led by Mata who served Lukaku right side. The Belgian international center for the head of Rashford who put for Paul Pogba who pushed the leather at the bottom of the nets (3-1, 54th). The French international scored his third goal of the season in the Premier League.
Conquerors in the first act, the Magpies seemed to have surrendered now. It was necessary to wait until the 67th minute to see Murphy solicit De Gea by a well-rolled strike. Manchester sealed his success on a nice move between Mata and Lukaku. The Belgian striker alone at the penalty box shot close Elliot (4-1, 70th). The latter broke the Indian sign and scored his eighth goal of the season. For the last quarter of an hour, Mourinho gave his first minutes of the season to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who replaced Martial. Thanks to this success, MU regained his second place with 26 points.
Martial: « Mourinho is hard with me »
Author of a good start to the season as a replacement with Manchester United, Anthony Martial looks back on his relationship with José Mourinho.
It’s much better for Anthony Martial. A one-year absence from the French team, the Manchester United striker found Didier Deschamps’ starting lineup against Germany (2-2) on Tuesday and signed a superb assist on the opening of the score of Alexandre Lacazette. A return to the international scene that results from his start to the season with the Red Devils. Lining Marcus Rashford on the left wing, the 21-year-old has turned into a super sub, with 6 goals and as many assists on his meter.
« Toto » Martial especially took the fold of the discipline that José Mourinho imposed on him for a year and a half. « He’s tough with all of us and he’s tough with me, that’s not the question, » said the native of Esssone on the Premier League channel. He recalls his long complicated relationship with the Portuguese coach: « At first we did not know each other very well, but things are better now. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and the result is that we learn to give the best every time. »
I also know that he really loves me
If the former Monegasque, recruited for 50 million euros in 2015, manages to become a top player one day, he will probably thank the « Special One ». « I know it’s for my benefit and I also know he really loves me, so there’s no problem with this discipline », concludes Anthony Martial. Especially since the young striker now knows that the efficiency, which he knows to show today with his limited playing time, can allow him to be in the France group for the 2018 World Cup.
Chelsea without Michy, Musonda ni Moses but with David Luiz
Against WBA, Chelsea will not be able to play Michy Batshuayi, Moses or Musonda.
Batshuayi is injured. (Marc Atkins / OFFSIDE / PRESS SPO / PRESS SPORTS)
Traveling to West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea will have to do without Michy Batshuayi (ankle), Danny Drinkwater (calf), Charly Musonda (knee) and Victor Moses (ischios). On the other hand, David Luiz returned to the group after being sidelined by Antonio Conte.
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