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Manchester United Lands Odion Ighalo on Loan From Chinese Club at Transfer Deadline

LONDON (AP) — The coronavirus-enforced suspension of soccer in China has led to Manchester United filling a void in its strike force.

Former Watford striker Odion Ighalo joined United on loan until the end of the season in May from Shanghai Shenhua, a person with knowledge of the deal said on Friday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deal ahead of an announcement by the English and Chinese clubs.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was scrambling to find a forward as the January transfer window closed on Friday after Marcus Rashford with ruled out with a long-term injury.

The 30-year-old Nigerian has to fly to northern England as many airlines have canceled flights from China.

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Ighalo was available because the Chinese Football Association announced that all domestic matches of the 2020 season will be postponed in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus that has claimed more than 200 lives. The Super League was due to run from Feb. 22 to Oct 31. A starting date for the new season has not yet been announced.

Already this week, United completed the signing of attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon in a deal that could be worth up to 80 million euros ($88 million).

“We’ve followed him for years,” Solskjaer said on Friday about Fernandes, “but he has grown gradually in that period as well. More and more mature, more and more assured performances.

“He’s a great leader of his team and, even with all the speculation that has been around him, probably every club in Europe linked with him, he’s stayed focused and played some fantastic football for Sporting.”

Also, Portugal defender Cedric Soares joined Arsenal on loan from Southampton until the end of the season, when his contract will have expired at the south-coast club.