“El Matador” — Manchester United spread the phrase like a battle cry while announcing his arrival at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ on the deadline day of the bygone summer transfer window.
They made the footballing world know that they had caught a big fish this time.
In English, the word “El Matador” means bullfighter, a nickname given to United’s new No. 7 during his illustrious time at Napoli.
On the eyes of the head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he is a ‘Viking‘ or almost ‘a warrior’.
To describe United’s new acquisition, one says, “He is no fat, pure muscle, like a Greek god. His body fat percentage is astonishing. He is fit and intense, and amazing in the air. He runs like a maniac.”
For Manchester United fans, he is none other than Edinson Cavani, one of their four deadline day signings, and a glimmering hope in the array of bewilderment.
The Mancunian club has had already endured a topsy-turvy start to the season, losing two of their first three games in total and two home fixtures at Old Trafford.
Plus, their main forward in Anthony Martial’s nightmarish start to a new season haven’t helped the causes either.
From three league appearances, he scored none, pulling his only contribution so far in the form of drawing a penalty in a game that United lost to 6-1 to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, and having pocketed a three-match ban after receiving a straight red card.
So, there remain questions — not one but many — regarding several aspects from players’ approaches to the tactical shape and management issues.
Some might perhaps be possible to be answered now, while others would automatically get clarified when the right time arrives.
By handing the prestigious No. 7 shirt to Cavani, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conveyed the message that he expects Cavani to be a focal point in his side.
We could even foresee some sort of tactical alterations and changes in formations from the management team going forward.
And, in that case, one formation Solskjaer would love to try his luck with again is 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 (while defending).
If we don’t be too harsh to United’s recruitment team, adding Edinson Cavani to the squad was a smart move — a move that could unlock a number of possible transformations in regard to the tactical features of United’s game.
As mentioned earlier in one of our pieces, Cavani, the highest scorer in the history of Paris Saint-Germain football club with 200 goals, maybe don’t possess the kind of pace a counter-pressing team like Manchester United would prefer, but his audacious and tricky movement off the ball could cause panic attacks for opposition markers.
Now, how could Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bring the best out of the former Napoli man without axing Anthony Martial from the starting spot?
Bearing in mind that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has always emphasized on causing teams problems by using the width provided by the wingers, we are not claiming that he should obliterate the conventional 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 to field Cavani and Martial together.
The main intention of this piece is to assess whether Cavani and Martial can play tougher; if yes, then how it should work and what would be the most suitable formations for them.
As mentioned above, 5-3-2 is an obvious option. And 4-4-2 could prove to be another path to walk along for the Norweigan gaffer.
However, it is worth mentioning that the Reds were able to only salvage a 1-1 draw when their manager last opted to field the 4-4-2 (diamond) formation against Everton in Goodison Park last March.
Both 4-4-2 and 5-3-2 are completely different formations. While 4-4-2, whether that consists a diamond or flat midfield, put pressure on sustaining position and keeping the ball at the middle of the park, the 5-3-2 allows teams to hit oppositions on the counter-attack by using their defensive resistance.
If comparing both formations, 5-3-2 requires more defensive workload and patience from their forwards than what it needs in the 4-4-2 formation. Tough, what is similar in both formations is the first line of defence revolves around two out-and-out forwards.
How could Cavani and Martial complement each other’s game?
There is a general understanding that Cavani, at the age of 33, might have passed his best and lost the agility to press against the defenders.
The Uruguayan international has had plied his trades as a second fiddle to Luis Suarez for Uruguay, to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Neymar for PSG over the last few years.
And undoubtedly, he was successful in doing that. Once a teammate, Ibrahimovic appreciated his hard work by saying,
“Having Cavani makes my game easier. We help each other. If I do not score, he’s scoring.
“This is something we did not have last year. He also does a lot of defensive work and that is good for the team. This is what we needed.
“We’re stronger this year. If we continue using Cavani the right way, it can be good for the team.”
Should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decide to launch Cavani and Martial in the same side, the Frenchman might see him getting a more advanced position in the attack, meaning he would have to perform all the pressing and hard work off the ball.
A small error from one of the opposing defenders and Cavani, known for his perfect positioning on the field and appetite to cover empty areas between defence-line and midfield, could find himself serving a delicious ball at the feet of the 24-year-old prolific goalscorer.
Although Cavani’s injury record over the last few months could be a matter of concern for the Reds Devils devotees, there shouldn’t be any question over his personality and professionalism.
Playing Cavani and Martial together could witness an instant hike in the latter’s offensive numbers, with a player of the Uruguyan’s ilk always looking to drive his defender with him and anonymously creating spaces for the peers to run at.
Should every trick Solskjaer currently has at his disposal fail sooner than later, he could once try the abovementioned tactical tweak to avoid any kind of apprehension after his last sigh as a Manchester United manager.
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