New Manchester United signing Odion Ighalo is undergoing double training sessions alongside Team GB’s Olympic Taekwondo team in a bid to get match fit.
Ighalo joined United on a six-month loan deal on transfer deadline day and is putting in the hard yards, but he won’t be able to join his new team-mates at their Marbella training camp over fears he won’t be allowed back in the country because of the Coronavirus threat.
The 30-year-old has been working under the watchful eye of performance coach Wayne Richardson, who used to work with Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.
Richardson admits he’s been impressed with Ighalo’s work ethic and believes the sessions are crucial if the striker is to make the necessary impact at Old Trafford.
‘If we didn’t have this break we would have been raising eyebrows,’ Richardson told The Telegraph. ‘United are in a position where they need someone now. Is there a right time or wrong time?
‘He’s going to Marbella and there is more of a chance of doing quality work with the United staff. He might have to hit the ground running due to injuries. By doing these sessions, he wants to hit the ground running and you can see that from the work he’s doing behind the scenes.
‘From the moment he has stepped through the door, he is one of the few players who has blown me away. His determination, drive and willingness. He’s been doing double sessions and we’ve had to hold him back a bit and monitor him because he has fire in his stomach as a professional.’
Ighalo had only just started pre-season training with Shanghai prior to making his shock move to United, meaning Richardson has had to be careful and assess his current physical state before administering the right sessions.
‘We’ve done testing. We’ve done endurance work, strength and conditioning, flexibility, mobility,’ added Richardson. ‘There were sprint tests over five, 10, 15, 20 metres, one rep max, isometric pulls, and mid-thigh pulls to see where he is.
‘From there we can give him endurance work, running box to box, change of direction, change of speed. Ankle, knee and hip movements look at his sprinting, what he can do off the ball, analysis with that is fed back to the player.
‘In China they’ve basically just started their pre-season so he was possibly two weeks into that but lost two or three days with the travelling and time difference and a key factor has been acclimatising. There is an element of fatigue and we’ve been monitoring him to give him enough recovery time.
‘Core strength which will be important in terms of dealing with the rigours of the Premier League and the big hitters because it will be quicker and faster compared to being out in China where the levels are completely different.
‘Some people come in and just do the training but this guy has embraced it all and hopefully we have prepared him the best we can.’