Edinson Cavani’s display against Roma showed the enduring class of a thoroughbred striker… so, has Solskjaer convinced him to stay at Man United and not follow his heart to Boca Juniors just yet?
- Edinson Cavani scored twice and set up three more in 6-2 defeat of Roma
- Uruguayan striker now has 12 goals for Man United and 50 overall in Europe
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been trying to convince 34-year-old to stay at United
- Cavani has been linked with a move to Boca Juniors in Argentina in the summer
- United boss believes Cavani would love playing in front of a packed Old Trafford
- And reports suggest that Cavani has changed his mind and could stay longer
Buenos Aires has classical grandeur, world famous steakhouses, the passion of the tango and plenty of sunshine. Manchester has old cotton mills, the hotpot, Stone Roses and a persistent drizzle.
Still, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in his satisfying Mancunian-Norwegian hybrid accent, has been doing his best to persuade Edinson Cavani to stick around a bit longer at Manchester United.
Cavani’s heart may well be set on Boca Juniors but Solskjaer has been playing the local tour guide to keep hold of the phenomenal 34-year-old centre forward for another year.
Edinson Cavani celebrates in trademark style after scoring his second goal against Roma
The Uruguayan striker’s performance in United’s 6-2 win was his best for the club yet
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying hard to convince Cavani to stay another year
‘This year has been very difficult but I’ve promised him Old Trafford and Manchester is a different place without fans in the stadium,’ Solskjaer said after Cavani’s two goals and three assists put United a giant leap closer to the Europa League final.
‘Manchester is a fantastic place to live. I’m doing my best, let’s see.’
Quite remarkably, Solskjaer might well have pulled it off. ESPN reported on Friday that Cavani has ‘had a change of heart’ and will stay with United a little longer. We await confirmation.
Class is clearly permanent when it comes to the Uruguayan and while a return to South America for the twilight years of his career may be the romantic option, he can clearly still do a brilliant job at the highest level for United.
His time at Old Trafford may have started slowly but Cavani is now one of United’s most influential players and they must pull out all the stops to convince him to stay.
Those two goals in Thursday night’s 6-2 thrashing of Roma made it 12 for the season and five in his last five matches. It also saw Cavani surpass 50 career Champions League and Europa League goals.
Cavani is keen to join Boca Juniors in Argentina and experience playing at La Bombonera
The allure of Buenos Aires (pictured) is obvious but Solskjaer has been talking to Cavani about Manchester’s charms
Cavani at Man United
Matches 33 Starts 17
Goals 12 Assists 5
UNITED TOP SCORERS 2020-21
26 – Bruno Fernandes
20 – Marcus Rashford
12 – Edinson Cavani
10 – Mason Greenwood
7 – Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay
6 – Paul Pogba
Even if Anthony Martial were fit at the moment, it’s doubtful he’d be ahead of Cavani as United’s first choice centre forward.
The understanding the veteran striker has developed with Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and others was gloriously in evidence at Old Trafford on Thursday.
It would be a shame if this just ended in a month’s time.
Cavani’s time at Old Trafford has been more Zlatan Ibrahimovic than Radamel Falcao and to come to the club and not score in front of a packed and adoring Stretford End is a pity.
The clamour for Cavani to stay is becoming deafening. On BT Sport, Paul Scholes described his display against Roma as ‘an all-round centre forward’s performance.’
He added: ‘We’ve seen these kinds of players, Marcus [Rashford], Mason [Greenwood], [Anthony] Martial, we’re not quite sure if they’re centre forward. Tonight, that tells you, that’s a real centre forward out there.’
Owen Hargreaves, stood next to Scholes, hailed a ‘proper’ thoroughbred centre forward, something of a dying breed nowadays.
One United fan on Twitter suggested that Solskjaer lock Cavani in the dressing room and not release him until the contract extension was signed.
That has probably crossed Solskjaer’s mind but he’ll hope a combination of winning the Europa League, Champions League football next season, liking the feel of United’s gradual rebuild and a bit more freedom to explore Manchester’s charms will do the trick.
The forward has scored 12 goals this season despite missing several games through injury
He was on the scoresheet twice as he helped United thrash Roma 6-2 in the Europa League
Old Trafford is rocking when United’s fans are at their vocal best on the big occasions but it isn’t quite Boca’s La Bombonera. There’s also the added factor that Cavani wishes to move closer to his family in Uruguay.
Last month his father Luis said: ‘My son does not feel comfortable in England and wants to be close to the family again. Edinson is going to end up playing in South America – he would like to play for Boca.’
There was also the storm over the three-match ban and £100,000 fine handed to him by the Football Association after he used the word ‘negrito’ in a ‘racist’ Instagram post.
The FA commission even agreed there was no offensive intent in the post but this apparent confusion of cultures only added to the sense that Cavani wasn’t entirely comfortable in England.
Cavani was banned for three matches and fined £100,000 by the FA for the use of the word ‘negrito’ in an Instagram post responding to a friend
On the pitch, there had certainly been plenty of doubters when Cavani was signed on a free at the beginning of October, just days after United had been thrashed 6-1 by Tottenham.
It seemed like such an underwhelming addition after a summer trying and failing to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and also completely out of sync with Solskjaer’s desire to regenerate United into a force with young players.
All the signs pointed to another high profile United flop like Falcao or Angel Di Maria. Cavani’s chequered injury record, which was the inevitable result of an ageing body, a sizeable wage packet for a back-up forward and little other interest in him following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain.
Cavani’s injury record was a concern when he joined United on a free transfer last October
Cavani announced himself with two goals in a stirring comeback win at Southampton
It also took some time for Cavani to be fit enough for Solskjaer to consider playing him. His first start came in the home game with Istanbul Basaksehir over six weeks after his arrival.
But really ever since the Uruguayan came off the bench at half-time to score twice in a thrilling comeback from 2-0 down at Southampton in late November, United knew he was still a class act.
There have been the odd injury knock-backs but Cavani’s fitness has been pretty good and increasingly when he is on the pitch, he delivers.
As Solskjaer said: ‘A centre forward as a centre forward should be playing, running the channels, being a focal point, creating chances for others, scoring goals, missing a couple of chances as well but that’s what he’s there to do really.
‘If you get three or four chances every game you’ll score one, two or three goals.’
The Uruguayan heads home against Tottenham in United’s recent 3-1 win in north London
He scored a classy volley in United’s Europa League win over Granada in the quarter-finals
That all-round centre forward play was much in evidence against Roma. The first-time top corner finish for his first goal, levelling the game at 2-2, was superb. His second may have been a tap-in but Cavani knew exactly where to be.
His perfectly-weighted through pass for Fernandes to open the scoring demonstrated the quality of his link-up work and the outside-of-the-boot ball to Mason Greenwood for the sixth was just showing off.
But his influence extends off the pitch as well, with Solskjaer speaking recently about Cavani’s positivity around the camp and effect on the club’s younger forwards.
Even if United do break the bank for someone like Erling Haaland or Harry Kane in the summer, Cavani would still be fantastic to have around the club.
He can expect Solskjaer to have plenty of words in his ear between now and the end of a season United hope will end with them lifting the Europa League in Gdansk. ‘You’d like Manchester in the summer, Edi… honestly.’
But Cavani’s all-round performance in the win over Roma was the best at United so far
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