There has been a big step forward in negotiations between Manchester United and Shanghai Shenhua regarding a possible extension of Odion Ighalo's loan deal.
The original terms of the Nigerian striker's United contract are due to expire this weekend and, earlier in the week, it appeared that Ighalo would be heading back to the Chinese Super League side.
However, it is understood that talks have progressed in the last few days and there is hope that an agreement can be reached before the weekend.
Shenhua wanted Ighalo back by the end of May to begin preparations for the return of the CSL and view him as an integral part of their squad.
The Shanghai outfit were, however, open to talks over a permanent deal for the 30-year-old instead of a loan extension - something United were not keen on pursuing as he does not fit the criteria for incoming signings.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward would prefer players aged around 23 or 24 and, as such, forwards such as Timo Werner and Moussa Dembele are seen as targets who fit better.
Consequently, talks had reached a stalemate, casting doubt on Ighalo’s short-term Manchester United future but sources close to the deal have indicated that progress has been made and Shenhua are now more receptive to the loan extension talks.
Ighalo has impressed since his January deadline-day move, scoring four goals in three starts, and United have been keen all along to extend the forward’s temporary deal until the season comes to an end.
There have been no Premier League fixtures since March 9 and Ighalo has spent most of the duration of his United stay out of action.
The striker spent part of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown back in Lagos, where he was working with a personal trainer to ensure he is in the best physical condition ahead of the proposed return of the English top flight.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would favour Ighalo staying at the club for the resumption of the Premier League and the United manager seemed optimistic when talking about agreeing an extension.
"The loan deal went until the end of May now, so obviously he’s supposed to be going back," Solskjaer told MUTV. "We’re in dialogue. They’ve been great towards us, his club, and allowed him to play for his dream club.
"It’s been a dream for him and hopefully he can finish off what he started, hopefully with a trophy for us. At the moment, nothing has been agreed. Their league is going to get started soon so we’re just waiting to see."
The squad returned to their Carrington training base last week where they have been working in small socially-distanced groups and Ighalo has been present along with the rest of his team-mates as they step up their return to full training.