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It is not the first time an Edinson Cavani Instagram Story has been left open to interpretation. Cavani screen-shot the Premier League statement that clubs had voted to withdraw their internationals from playing in red list countries and accompanied it with three sizeable question marks in bold.
He is not the only one left with questions. Did Manchester United inform Cavani (and Fred) before the statement was released? Does Cavani disagree with the unanimous decision taken by the 20 Premier League clubs? It is something for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to address on Friday.
Come Cavani’s possible participation at Wolves on Sunday, it will have been 65 days since he last played (for Uruguay). It will have been 95 days since he previously appeared for United in the Europa League final.
Irrespective of Uruguay’s red list status by the UK government, United will have been reluctant to let Cavani fly back to South America for three games in six days. This is a 34-year-old who is seemingly capable of starting once a week at club level and missed the entirety of pre-season, as well as United’s first two fixtures.
Cavani’s conditioning threatened to drive a wedge between player and club during those dark, dank days of isolation in February and March. Cavani had privately declared himself unavailable for matches when the medical staff had cleared him to play before his 11th hour withdrawal from the travelling squad to AC Milan.
His purple patch in April and May was of a world-class striker, compelling enough for United to convince Cavani to extend his rent in Manchester by another year. Seventeen goals was a successful return and Solskjaer has already laid down the gauntlet for Cavani to surpass that number this term.
Cavani will not have been unsettled by watching Anthony Martial, blunt at the tip of the arrow at Southampton on Sunday. Solskjaer demonstrated at St Mary’s there will be times where Mason Greenwood is relocated back to the right.
The moment Solskjaer and Cavani clasped hands in the Carrington press room in April, United’s plans for a new number nine were parked until next year. So something will have had to go badly wrong for Ed Woodward to suggest to Matt Judge that he calls Daniel Levy this week.
On Monday Night Football , Gary Neville was baffled why United were not in for Harry Kane, arguing he would potentially increase their points tally to at least 90 points.
Well, the obvious sticking point is Kane wants to go to City and Neville should know this, as Kane all but confirmed that to him in an interview with him back in May by extolling Kevin de Bruyne. As part of their recruitment reboot two years ago, United decided to only pursue targets sold on and invested in playing for the club. That discounts Kane, who restricted himself to City when he rocked the boat at Tottenham.
Kane wants to move to Manchester Neville was pitchside at St George’s Park and Wembley for the start of Kane’s international career and Kane was comfortable enough to provide Neville with access to him late last season. Tottenham privately decided in early July Kane would not be sold. Neville’s club will be in the market for a striker next year and Kane is institutionally admired at United. Kane’s PR offensive extended to Monday Night Football .
Neville echoed most United supporters by questioning United’s reluctance to ‘go that extra step in the transfer window’ but blemished his analysis by focusing on Kane when an athletic defensive midfielder is the final piece. Kane would cost around £150million and United roughly lost that amount during 17 months of home games with the turnstiles locked. They have committed to investing £115.9m on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.
“They’re still going to have to replace Cavani and Martial next summer,” Neville stressed. “Martial’s not going to do it, Cavani’s only got one year left.”
There could be a senior exodus at United next year, when Cavani, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, and Paul Pogba’s contracts expire. Martial has had two good seasons in six and his seventh started with familiar fecklessness. The 25-year-old is tied to United until 2024 and next summer would be the appropriate window to cash in.
Tony Martial, scorned again Tottenham just happen to be admirers of Martial three years on from Levy’s telephone call to Woodward. Martial might thrive outside the United pressure cooker at a club with two League Cups in the last 30 years.
Next month, United will hold their first recruitment meeting to prepare for next summer and a striker is already the priority. If Kane is a Spurs player this time next week, then Erling Haaland would be a more appealing option for City next year, when his €75million release clause becomes active. Solskjaer and the football director John Murtough are in mutual agreement Haaland is the preferred long-term number nine target.
There are conflicting whispers about Solskjaer and Haaland’s relationship since he rejected United in the winter of 2019, when the club tried to cut his agent Mino Raiola out of the deal. Solskjaer said he is still in touch with Haaland but he was unhappy about the unexpected rejection.
Since that picture of a young Kylian Mbappe, sat on his bed and his wall adorned by Cristiano Ronaldo posters, emerged the expectation has always been he would end up at Real Madrid. Even in a barren summer where Florentino Perez was left licking his wounds after the Super League scrap, Madrid have reputedly offered €160million for Mbappe.
Marca last week splashed on Haaland with the headline: “Without losing sight of Haaland.” Raiola is eager to engineer an elite transfer to Real Madrid.
It poses more questions for United. Kane may be the answer.