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How Edinson Cavani should be used by Manchester United

Edinson Cavani was a questionable move by Manchester United on deadline day. There is no doubting his quality, but it is a transfer that is reminiscent of previous years, rather than the new approach under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. There are several issues under the current management, but there had been positive signs in recruitment. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Daniel James, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van der Beek were all signed with their best years ahead of them.

Cavani comes into Old Trafford with a huge global reputation and there is no doubting his quality. However, it is a move that looks to be short term, as shown by his age and contract. The Manchester United board probably see his arrival as a necessary deal to buy them time in the pursuit of main targets, such as Jadon Sancho. However, some supporters will see it as a deal similar to Radamel Falcao, Angel di Maria and Alexis Sanchez. All arrived with huge reputations, but flattered to deceive in the Theatre of Dreams.

Despite the valid concerns, there is reason to be excited about Cavani’s arrival, as he has been one of the best forwards in Europe over the last decade. For Napoli, he scored 104 goals, before moving to PSG and becoming their all-time leading goalscorer with 200. That is no small achievement, despite the relative youth of the Parisian club.

He will arrive and add a natural striking presence to the squad. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have both done well in the central position, but there is still belief that they both do their best work as an inside forward. Although Odion Ighalo has contributed in cup competitions, he isn’t at the level to contribute regularly in the Premier League. Solskjaer will know that he can’t start Mason Greenwood every week either, as he is still very young. In the short term, Cavani should prove to be a useful option, both centrally and on the right wing.

The Uruguayan will be arriving with a point to prove after being sidelined in his final year at PSG. He started only seven times in a shortened Ligue 1 season and wasn’t kept on to feature in the latter stages of the Champions League. It would have been easy for Cavani to move back to South America or to the MLS to finish his career, but the move to Old Trafford shows a hunger to finish on his terms in Europe.

During the period between August 2016 and the summer of 2019, Cavani scored 81 goals at a rate of one every 89.1 minutes in Ligue 1. Some will question the quality of the league and suggest this was caused by PSG’s dominance. Although there is some merit to that, it still shows an excellent level of consistency and goal-scoring prowess.

Manchester United were good during the restart, but a lot of their goals were moments of quality. They lacked a natural centre forward capable of poaching in the penalty area. Cavani will fill that void, as he is a natural goal-scorer. Solskjaer will be hoping that the younger forwards at the club can learn from his penalty box instincts. Further to his obvious qualities as a striker, he brings a winning mentality. Following the embarrassing performances of some during the recent loss to Tottenham, this will be another big positive of the transfer.

This summer will likely be looked back on as a missed opportunity for Manchester United. Jadon Sancho would have been a similar signing to Bruno Fernandes in the long term vision of the club. However, that didn’t happen and they have brought in Cavani as a stop-gap. He should have an impact more comparable to Zlatan Ibrahimovic than Falcao, but it is still a short term move. If Solskjaer wants to get the best from him, he should play him centrally between the posts, as this is where a 33-year-old Cavani is at his most dangerous.

Stats taken from Whoscored, Transfermarkt and FB Ref

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