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Detailed Analysis: Edinson Cavani – the next Sanchez or Ibrahimovic?

Edinson Cavani’s deal was one of four deals United made on the deadline day. Cavani has signed a two-year contract with Manchester United. The Uruguayan spent the last seven years at Paris Saint-Germain and is now joining as a free agent.

Throughout the transfer window, Manchester United fans have been preparing for Jadon Sancho’s arrival but all they have now is a 33-year-old striker. Cavani will wear the #7 shirt.

Although, Cavani has been a world class striker who has been a mainstay at one of the biggest clubs in the world but was he actually the man Manchester United fans were hoping for?

Surely the experienced Uruguayan will provide valuable insights but will he really be as influential as Zlatan Ibrahimovic or become another expensive mistake like Alexis Sanchez proved to be?

At age 33, Cavani is no longer the pacey forward he once he used to be and has seen his stocks in the PSG squad deteriorate. Thomas Tuchel, who was a great admirer of the forward mostly used Cavani as an option from the bench due to regular injuries.

In an illustrious career where he has scored 25+ goals in 8 out of the last 10 seasons, Cavani has always played second fiddle to a superstar player. Whether be it Ibrahimovic in the early stages of his PSG career or Neymar and Kylian Mbappe towards the end, the story has been the same all throughout.

Even in the national set-up the leader of the Uruguayan attack is not Cavani but fellow forward Luis Suarez.

Cavani has had to toil hard all throughout his career and never been considered the number one at Paris Saint-Germain.

Do United really need him and can they afford to meet his astronomical wage demands and agent fees?

Signing Cavani for a two-year period makes little sense considering that he will be at 35 when his contract expires. This is contrary to the manager’s vision and good work done so far of signing players with a future at the club. It looks like an attempt to plaster over the gaping wounds of the Jadon Sancho transfer saga.

Until the deadline day, Manchester United managed to make only one signing in form of Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek who signed from Ajax. The club has really struggled to make any moves for their targets and their transfer window has been nothing short of disappointment.

Ed Woodward and his team in charge of player incomings have seen a number of their transfer targets such as slip away. January saw Erling Haland choose Borussia Dortmund over Manchester United. While in the next few months, RB Leipzig center-back Dayot Upamecano was another miss as he signed a new contract in the summer and refused to move.

Birmingham City starlet Jude Bellingham was followed by Manchester United scouts for about two years and had even been given a tour of the training complex which featured an audience with Sir Alex Fergusson. However, despite all the efforts made by the Red Devils, the youngster joined Borussia Dortmund, following the footsteps of another player who moved from England at aged 17- Jadon Sancho.

Manchester United failed to lure a number of their transfer targets this summer which is a shame considering the rich history of the club and domination in the Premier League era.

Despite Manchester United’s track record of acquiring forwards way past their best such as Radamel Falcao and Alexis Sanchez, not all transfers result in failures. A certain Zlatan Ibrahimovi? signed for Manchester United as a free agent in 2016 at the age of 34 and scored 17 goals in the league. Zlatan’s presence turned out to be a huge boast for the club and next season saw Manchester United finish 2nd in the league, only behind Manchester City.

Cavani may have seen his importance in the PSG camp diminish over the years as high-profile signings made big waves but nobody can argue the fact that the Uruguayan has played a big role in the club’s development.

An opportunist forward who willingly defends with a good work-rate and a clinical finisher is hard to find!

The boss: Ole Gunner Solskjaer himself knows a thing or two about the striker position and his bet on Cavani is possibly one that could do wonders for United in the short term. Although both Rashford and Martial scored 17 goals each in the Premier League, Manchester United fans have been wanting more from their forwards. None of the front three are actually penalty box predators in the same capacity as Cavani.

Cavani’s game involves sharp and clever movements to get behind markers before pulling the trigger. He uses change of direction and a few daring maneuvers to get into scoring positions. The Uruguayan’s most repetitive yet successful movement is to run over to the first post in order to create channels to attack.

El Matador stands at a tall frame of 6 ft and a lean but powerful body. He uses all his physical attributes to good effect during set pieces and is very good with his head- a quality lacking in the United front three.

Cavani has scored goals over the world and stands with over 350 goals currently. Although he had a bad season last year, it is also important to point out that signings such as Neymar, Mbappe, and Icardi made it hard for him to get the minutes. 

In the limited games, that he played, Cavani did show what he was capable of. However, being in and out of the team and with his future being unclear, might have been clouding his thinking on and off the pitch. He may just brush off the disappointment of the past season and start afresh at a new club.

Besides that, Ole Gunner Solskjaer certainly believes in the veteran. Ole once described Cavani as a ‘Viking’ in the press ahead of Manchester United’s Champions League last 16 tie in 2019: “Cavani is like a Viking, like the ones you see in videos, like a warrior almost!

As Ole himself has experienced in his career, this is not the first time Manchester United have found themselves getting a striker well past his best on a short-term contract. By the end of 2006, Manchester United were lacking in options going forward. Rudd van Nistelrooy had left for Real Madrid that year. Ole Gunner Solskjaer and Alan Smith were sidelined with injuries. Alex Ferguson only had Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha as his two recognized strike options.

United had last won the league in 2003 and were in dire need of some leadership in attack. In came Henrik Larsson, the Barcelona and Celtic superstar who had signed for a 3-month period during Helsinborgs’ winter break.

Although Larsson only played only 13 games and scored 3 goals – one of which put United in contention to win the Champions League, he had a big impact on the team. His leadership and determination inspired the younger lot and saw Manchester United kick on to win many more accolades in the future.

With Odion Ighalo’s loan spell set to expire in January 2021, Cavani could be the man to take over the back-up role. The Uruguayan’s presence will surely improve the squads as there remains no doubt that he is an upgrade on Ighalo who failed to score a single goal in 11 appearances in the Premier League- all from the bench. Whether he can be more than that and rediscover his old form which made him such a feared forward in the European game, remains to be seen.

Like his long-time Uruguay striker-partner Suarez, Cavani finds his career at crossroads too. He now has to start all over again at a new club and it remains to be seen if he can be a success like the 34-year-old Ibrahimovi? turned out to be or if we will just add him to the long list of flops like Alexis Sanchez and Radamel Falcao were.

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