F365 Says: Onus on Solskjaer to sell Cavani on staying at Man Utd

Ian Watson

Manchester United have finally got themselves a proper No.9. One that moves, heads footballs, scores goals and everything. Now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just has to keep him.

That won’t be as easy as it sounds. Edinson Cavani is mulling over his options, which it has to be assumed are plentiful, and selling United as the best place for the Uruguayan next season could be a tall order for the manager.

So far, Cavani hasn’t had it easy during his six-month stay, two-thirds of which has been spent in lockdown. With friends and family unable to visit from abroad and the 34-year-old unable to see much of England beyond the cold, grey skies either while working, walking or peering through a window, it is hardly surprising that Cavani is biding his time before committing to United another year of his career. Of which there are few remaining.

By and large, Cavani and United have made the best of it. His goal in the come-from-behind win over Tottenham was his seventh strike, with a couple of assists thrown in too, in 20 Premier League appearances, almost half of which have come as a substitute.

The arrangement has certainly worked for United. Solskjaer has been crying out for a specialist centre-forward since he deemed Romelu Lukaku unsuitable to the role at Old Trafford. “A performance like today we, as a club, have missed for a few years,” said Solskjaer after Cavani toyed with Eric Dier and Joe Rodon on Sunday.

Cavani’s arrival was greeted with pessimism, and there is no doubt that it was a signing laced with desperation as the deadline loomed. But Paris Saint-Germain’s greatest-ever goalscorer has proved wrong those who thought he was too old and fit for little else other than carrying home his enormous salary.

If that’s what Cavani was most concerned about, then he would probably have already recommitted to the club for another year. Where else might he get around £200,000 a week as a 34-year-old? Certainly not at Boca Juniors.

16 Conclusions: Tottenham 1-3 Man Utd

But Boca must be tempting to Cavani. Should he finally submit to Marcos Rojo’s mithering, the Uruguay hitman will return to South America as one of the leading lights. At Old Trafford, Cavani has had to fight to shine this season. And opportunities in the spotlight aren’t likely to come much easier next campaign.

Regardless of what decision Cavani makes over his future, United will need to source a centre-forward this summer. Whether it is Erling Haaland, Harry Kane or any other proven goalscorer, Cavani will likely find his place under even greater threat than it already is, even while Anthony Martial continues to fluff his audition for a role he seems to feel entitled to.

Cavani’s signing was said to be done with half an eye on tutoring United’s current strikers, with Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood previously taking it in turns to play through middle. Greenwood may well settle into the centre-forward role but the teenager still has much to learn. So too does Martial, but he doesn’t seem to catch on quick if his form this season, and through numerous others, is any indicator.

Any observation Cavani is seen offering to Greenwood – Sunday’s seemed to be along the lines of ‘cross the ball quicker’ – is held up as evidence of the veteran’s positive influence, and that he certainly is. But Cavani probably has his eye on a role more prominent than player-coach, especially if his playing time next season would be cut further still.

When Cavani’s luscious locks begin to grey and he contemplates hanging up his shooting boots, then his focus might shift outwards. But right now Cavani, quite rightly, wants to increase his own goals tally rather than worry about someone else’s. The forward would never have amassed 349 club goals and 51 international strikes without such single-mindedness.

If only United had another experienced presence in a position to influence their centre-forwards. Someone who, say, had scored an injury-time winner in a Champions League final and made a career on sniffing out goals.
Solskjaer is a busy man, of course. But high on his list of priorities should be Cavani and making the prospect of another year at United sound more appealing than it might currently look even if, with lockdown easing, the Uruguayan can now start to sample the ‘fantastic culture of Manchester and England’.

So United need to hope that Cavani enjoys a pint of Boddingtons in Wetherspoons’ car park because in the unlikely event United land Haaland or Kane, they will still need him and all the qualities he brings to their attack. And should it emerge that both Haaland and Kane are too expensive for Ed Woodward’s taste, losing Cavani too would be a kick in the balls with United a decent summer away from mounting a serious challenge for the major honours.