Edinson Cavani: The man responsible for lifting the No. 7 curse at Old Trafford


Tuesday 6th October 2020, there was an official press release from Manchester United Football Club. They have completed another deadline day signing of a centre-forward who is expected to add layers to the teams front three. A 33-year-old Uruguayan who had not been on their list of targets was seen as a rational approach to the club’s transfer strategy under their new manager. 

People inside the club saw this as a calculated risk, a risk which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was willing to take considering the said player had not played football in well over six months but still remains to be one of the most if not the only lethal penalty box strikers having graced the game. 

People who have known Edinson Cavani since his days at Naples have often remarked that the player comes from a generation where center forwards while leading the line as the focal point, naturally had it in them as a part of his game to bully and press the opposition center halves for fun. Cavani’s game has it all. 

Despite all his individual glory and the fact that Cavani’s acquisition was indicative of a shrewd business, the dubious helter-skelter approach that the bosses at Old Trafford have been known for all this while added another to the list after signing a once glorious center forward in Radamel Falcao who for all his worth went onto score a net total of four goals in 29 games in his time at the club. 

There were echoes and those echoes were split. 

The club fans yawning off another season with failed approach leading to missing out onto the much-coveted winger Jadon Sancho and the fans outside the club already categorically placing the transfer as the worst in the history of deadline day signings as per a poll conducted by The Athletic. 

But neither of this refrained Solskjaer who knows it all of the trait from allowing the club to go after the center forward placing him as calculated risk which could only add to the new policy of recruitment at Old Trafford. A team playing out of transition, built at the core with known veterans and accompanied by talented hardworking young individuals.

Cavani’s signing screamed a typical Solskjaer signing from the outset – add more than one value to the team. A centre-forward who “brings energy, power, leadership and great mentality but most importantly goals. His playing record both at national and club level is fantastic.” 

The opportunity is right there for the likes of young Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial to learn the skills of the trait from one of the top goal scorers in over last decade and more.

For a person born on Valentine’s Day, the love-only relationship did not take long for Cavani to forge with the club fans. Of course, United’s gracious history has seen quite a few walk the pantheon of greatness in the likes of Denis Irwin, Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best, Eric Cantona but Cavani fits right in the bill which he went on to prove in his first season at the club from his time in the domestic league right up to the Europa finals so much so that every United fan now moans on not having signed El Matador earlier and having him represent the club glory all this while. 

I think it is written in the books when they say each adversity makes you stronger except when you are dealing with an individual who has the mental and physical fortitude of Cavani’s stature, the comeback is only stronger. 

Due to the ongoing Covid crisis, the center forward didn’t exactly have a start off the pitch which he would have settled well with in all fairness. Be it his inauguration game having been delayed by two weeks since joining the roster due to quarantine bubble and having to miss the Champions League game against his former club Paris Saint Germain due to contracting Covid-19 earlier in the year. Add to that he was charged by the English FA with racial discrimination, which was a term of endearment in his native language. 

Not the ideal introduction the player would have liked both to the country which is brazen cold for an individual like Cavani whose native country began with summer as the English winter descended and the league which he is expected to play at for almost another year. Add to that the injury he is coming off; his first start did not come until late December despite having made appearances previously. 

It was never going to be easy for someone who was donning the jersey previously worn by the likes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona but knowing his professional standards and work ethics, Solskjaer always knew that Cavani will handle the No. 7 jersey with more than just grace considering the other set of individuals before him in Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay all phased out. 

Couple of months in the job and United were already screaming out for the Uruguayan whenever he was not on the pitch and the game at Aston Villa is an evidence to that idea. The team’s first half performance was showcasing how this United side was missing a focal point up top who could make those blind run-ins and prevent the opposition center halves from making progressive passes. Rashford and Greenwood were constantly switching between the center half position but found themselves drifting on the wings for the large part of the first half. 

Off the bench came Cavani and as United to look to double the lead, he dotted through Ezri Konsa and Matty Cash and scored a screaming header off the ball placed by Marcus Rashford. It wasn’t about the finish; it was about the parallel movement and Cavani’s vision was that was breath taking. Talking about Cavani’s movement, Solskjaer said:

“He’s the centre-forward you want in the box. His movement is incredible and it is something everyone can learn from.”

What is it that United fans can expect of a man coming off a 17-year + playing career as a top centre-forward?

His off the ball movement is what makes Cavani second to none. His ability to time his run behind the defense, dropping his marker and dragging the opposition in their own box creating space for other attackers is what makes the Uruguayan so special. Cavani’s skillset by the virtue of having an illustrious career such as his adds more than one dimension to his game. His strength lies in being able to play behind the shoulder of each his marker and making those bend-in runs, much like the one against Hasenhüttl’s men creating a blind sight to the opposition defense. 

Add to this, his impact at Carrington is something which is pivotal and priceless to Solskjaer’s long term plan of molding the likes of Rashford, Greenwood, Elanga and co into the traits of Cavani. 

In an economy dominated by Covid variants, El Matador’s level of experience is something which you can’t buy by spending the big bucks. A level of experience which the likes of Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe or Dominic Calvert-Lewin can’t bring to the Old Trafford just yet. A testament to this was Greenwood’s second goal of the campaign. A plunging header coming off the deflection of a Paul Pogba shot against a physically dominating Brighton Hove Albion.

Despite his father coming out in press and denying the extension to Cavani’s contract renewal, it did not take him long to sign for another year at Old Trafford only this time he gets to play with a 75,000 crowd at the Theatre of Dreams. 

Ask the 10,000 fans who on the first day after a year and a half of staying away from Old Trafford got to feast their eyes with a much-deserved fan-special Cavani goal from outside the 40-yard mark against Fulham means. Or the Italian stalwarts that is AS Roma who are no stranger to Edinson Cavani goals only this time in a red jersey at Gdansk despite stealing the lead on the night. 

“It could not have been better scripted.

Superheroes seem to be able to come up with their own astonishing tory lines and that is what makes them iconic.”

In this United side which are still young and developing identified sequence of positional play inside the opposition half, the clubs’ front line in still has much to love. They certainly have the bolstering pace to attack any defense in transition and shred it to threads on a given day. However, it is sides which United play that tend to sit back that they struggle creating and attacking against. 

Good thing is that they now have added another individual to the roster in Jadon Sancho who despite his age has made a mockery of Xg’s in the last two years playing in professional leagues. 

The linkup plays in the United front four is going to be more fluid than ever. In Rashford and Sancho, United have two wingers who can easily change potions as the match progresses. With Greenwood, Martial and Cavani to lead the line, there is no one attacker that the club need to be overly dependent on to make things happen at the top.

There are promising times ahead, Manchester United fans! 

Written by Dheeraj Pandey

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