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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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Manchester United stance on Edinson Cavani role has changed under Solskjaer

Edinson Cavani’s game-time has been a hot topic at Manchester United from virtually the first day he arrived at the club.

From rankles last season about his fitness, a club-versus-country debate that has lingered on – and clearly played a part in his lack of involvement this season – to the current predicament, with the striker ruled out of Sunday’s trip to West Ham, it hasn’t been plain sailing for United where Cavani has been concerned.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer often plays the diplomat with his public comments, but there was a stage last season when the Norwegian couldn’t hide his dissatisfaction with the situation. It almost led to Cavani’s exit from the club completely in the summer, before a purple patch of form in April and May, beginning with a virtuoso striking display in the 3-1 win at Tottenham, saw an agreement reached.

All appeared rosy in the garden again and United were delighted to acquire Cavani’s services for another year. It was absolutely vital, at the time, that they did.

Even at the age of 34, the Uruguayan gave Solskjaer something he didn’t have elsewhere in his squad, that knack of poaching goals in the final third.

Of course, things have changed now. United signed another ‘ageing’ striker in the summer in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo and suddenly Cavani’s fitness issues don’t seem so troubling for Solskjaer.

The United boss was asked about Cavani in his press conference on Thursday afternoon and even his response included a nod to the Ronaldo signing.

“He had a fantastic season last season, the impact he made when he got his fitness,” Solskjaer said on the Uruguayan. “He struggled with niggly injuries early on. We feel that to get the best out of him this season we need to get him 100 per cent fit and not rush him.

“We’ve got a strong squad that will cope with having to let players heal and not risk any further injuries. I see Edinson having a massive impact, he’s that type of personality and player. He can’t wait to play and he’s working really hard to get back on the pitch.”

Whether or not Cavani can return to the fold, to have that kind of impact Solskjaer speaks about, remains to be seen.

It’s probably not worth comparing him – or any player – to Ronaldo when talking about longevity. And with Cavani without a start so far this season – having played just once in an ineffectual substitute appearance against Wolves, he has plenty to prove when back to full fitness.

The presence of Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood and the fit-again (albeit inconsistent) Anthony Martial certainly eases Solskjaer’s concerns. Even Marcus Rashford’s impending return will give them another option at No.9 when, at one stage last season, Cavani was to United what Obi-Wan Kenobi was to Princess Leia… their only hope.

United got what they wanted in tying Cavani down for another year, and then they went out and improved their options as well. The ball is now in the court of the 34-year-old to get back up to speed and show Solskjaer it’s not just Ronaldo who can keep plundering goals well into his 30s.

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