Odion Ighalo has vowed to dedicate every goal he scores for Manchester United to his late sister Mary, who was a passionate supporter of the club.
Mary Atole passed away at the age of 43 on December 12, after collapsing at her residence in Canada while readying her children to go to school.
Ighalo announced her sudden death by posting a picture of himself with Mary on social media, captioned “RIP sister” with a broken heart emoji.
The 30-year-old completed a loan move to Old Trafford for Shanghai Shenhua the following month, and he could be in line to make his debut for the Red Devils when they come up against Chelsea on Monday.
The former Nigeria international has revealed he will have his sister’s name etched into his boots and written on a white shirt that he will wear under his United jersey at Stamford Bridge.
“My sister was a strong United fan. All of us grew up watching Manchester United, we all supported them,” Ighalo told The Sun. “Mary’s husband followed Chelsea, while their children were Manchester City and Liverpool fans, but she stayed loyal to United.
“She always prayed I would sign for United. Even when she came to watch me in the Premier League playing for Watford she hoped I would join United.
“The painful part for me is that I now have signed for United, but she is not here to see it. However, I know she is up there watching me.
“That is why I am going to play with her name on my boots, so she is always with me at Old Trafford or in any game for Manchester United.
“Every goal I score from now until I finish my career will be dedicated to God and to her.
“I have written her name on my special white T-shirt and put her name on my boots. I want to show the world she is always with me.
“It means she can feel me playing at Old Trafford, feel that dream we all prayed for, even though she is not here to see it.
“But she will be on my feet, assisting me on the pitch.”
Ighalo had not been able to link up with his new team-mates during for a two-week period due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in China, and was forced to train alone while the rest of the squad headed to Marbella for a winter training camp.
The former Watford forward feared his move to Old Trafford could have been scuppered by the crisis, but he was determined “to fulfil a lifetime dream”.
“I was a bit scared,” he said. “My agent, Atta Aneke, called me from Norway and said United wanted me but were looking at another striker because I was in China and there was the coronavirus.
“I wanted it to happen, to fulfil a lifetime dream, so joining United was more important to me than money.”
Ighalo concluded by thanking United fans for their support over the last couple of weeks and promising to give his all to the club’s cause over the next six months.
“I want to thank the fans for all the messages of support since the day I arrived in Manchester,” he added.
“This is the biggest club in the world. I know it’s a new team and a big challenge, but I am going to give my best in every game to make sure we accomplish what we want. God bless all the United fans.”