In the extended transfer window of 2020, as Karl Robinson's desire for an explosive winger grew more profound, his attention turned to Olamide Shodipo, a bright spark in the QPR ranks, looking to make a name for himself out on loan.
From the moment he sunk his boots into the turf, the former Irish Under-21 International looked buoyant. He stepped up to the plate from the get-go.
Only playing four minutes at Stadium MK, the starlet authenticated his worth to Robinson by stretching the MK Dons defence, crowning his late cameo with a goal off the inside of the post. It was his goal that assisted United in triumphing for just the second time in the league in what was a torrid start to the campaign.
Shodipo had illustrated his limitless potential to become a spearhead in United's attack alongside the prolific Matty Taylor, notching nine goals in the league before the end of the calendar year. It was a track record that eclipsed Marcus Browne and Gavin Whyte's previous credentials.
The red-hot form of the 23-year-old brought a grin to the face of the U's head coach; Robinson had finally found his new star boy. United's attacking trident was in the ascendancy, and the lightning-quick acquisition proved to be an ill-tempered opponent to rival defences.
Fast forward a few months, and the once dynamic attacker now finds himself under scrutiny, suppressed by frustration on the sidelines. In his last 15 outings, he has only found the net once, a return that cloaks his propitious start.
Perhaps struggling under the burden of a self-fulfilling prophecy placed on him by United fans, Shodipo now faces an uncertain future, not only at Oxford Utd but QPR as well.
His ability to take on defenders has worsened, often resulting in the loss of possession in the attacking third. This is something that has cost the U's a lot in recent games as they fail to find the perfect blueprint to breaking down defensive-minded systems.
The goals have dried up, his eagerness to impress is showing signs of fleeting, and his overall performances in the yellow and blue outfit have been insufficient in rewarding him a long-term contract.
For the sake of his future, Shodipo will hope that his purple patch towards the dawn of his Oxford United spell returns, but the feeling among the Grenoble Road faithful suggest that his chances are up.
Slipping through the cracks at QPR
Queen's Park Rangers have shown little sign of a return to the top-flight since their relegation from the Premier League in 2013. However, their youth academy still stands as one of the many hotbeds of up and coming talents in England.
Building a reputation through their artistry in nurturing some of the countries brightest stars, the R's have fostered many youth prospects to the next level of their game. Among the star-studded graduates include the names of Peter Crouch and Raheem Sterling.
Amidst the same crop of players that Shodipo emerged from, Eberechi Eze and Darnell Furlong, who now ply their trade in the top division, made full use of their time in W12.
It would be fair to say that Shodipo was in the right place and the right time to validate his worth, but the Irishman flew under the radar at QPR, slipping through the cracks of a hotbed of youth that thrived.
Shodipo has found it difficult to prosper since graduating from White City, failing to ignite a flame in loan spells at Colchester United and Port Vale, after injuries have cost him to lose time to kick on.
Turning 24 years old this year, Shodipo has limited time to make an impact and impress Mark Warburton during his remaining minutes out on loan.
The clock is ticking, his contract is set to expire in the summer, and Shodipo's age is no longer at the number of a young prospect. The speedy winger, therefore, must fire on all cylinders for a move in the summer.
He has showcased, in brief spells, a flicker of potential, but he needs to find the consistency to warrant a chance to become a cardinal asset to potential suitors. While his form has dipped, the competition for his role has soared.
Oxford are suffocated by depth on the flanks
Robinson continued to quench his thirst for exciting wingers in January. The loan signings of Brandon Barker and Elliot Lee added more depth in choice on the wings for United, reverberating Shodipo's obligation to perform.
Lee, despite suffering from fitness issues, has already shown his composure in front of the goal, scoring two more than Shodipo has in his last 10 appearances.
The Luton Town man also has experience in his artillery, having played a pivotal role in the Hatters' rise to the Championship. His age, along with his ability to perform at a consistent level, has been a breath of fresh air in Shodipo's absence in form.
Furthermore, Barker stooped down to League One with a point to prove. So far, the winger has taken up the left-wing position, highlighting his tendency to run at players, cutting inside and chipping in with 5 goal involvements since his arrival on deadline day.
Although the out-of-favour Rangers component usually plays on the opposite flank to Shodipo, it is the left side that the Irishman prefers. Both wings offer stiff competition, leaving Robinson in the healthy problem of figuring out his best options in the summer.
James Henry and Mark Sykes are also in contention for Shodipo's role, adding extra heat to the contest. The loanee is trapped under the suffocation of competition for starting spots, leaving the wide man uncertain of his future.
While many options are available at Robinson's disposal now, it wouldn't be a shock to see the U's head coach delve into the market when the season comes to a close. After all, United have come out of the pandemic better than expected, suggesting there is room to improve if necessary.