Man Utd’s late acquisition of Edinson Cavani may have come at the perfect time for the club.
Much ado has been raised about the late nature of his arrival and awarding him the coveted number 7 jersey has been likewise controversial.
While a good chunk of this dismay from the supporters stems from United’s failure to land Jadon Sancho this summer, there is more than meets the eye.
In particular, an argument can be made as to why Cavani is more important to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s United than Sancho this campaign.
Prior to going into the precise details that make Cavani an excellent acquisition, a caveat must be embarked upon. Man Utd desperately needed Sancho, or rather, a world-class right-winger this summer and failed to deliver adequately.
Signing Cavani and failing to purchase Sancho shows two immense flaws in United’s transfer policy. It cannot possibly be construed that the Uruguayan international arrived at Old Trafford at the culmination of a long-term plan as he has been a free-agent for the whole summer.
However, the very factors that has supporters of his new club worried- namely his age and the fact that he may be beyond his prime, are factors that could end up making him a better acquisition than Sancho, who would only bring quality.
Cavani brings with him heaps of European experience and a proven goal-scoring record. While his exit from PSG wasn’t the most amicable of matters, he still left the side with a prolific and unprecedented tally of goals scored.
Past mistakes have clearly shown that relying on a good player with a decent track record to perform is a less risky bet than putting all hope on a young player who simply doesn’t meet his potential.
Moreover, Sancho would have had all the pressure of the price tag and a certain no.7 jersey weight plastered onto him – a scenario that ended up in catastrophe with regard to Memphis Depay. For Cavani, however, the focus will be mainly to add goals when needed as Anthony Martial and potentially Mason Greenwood too will be tasked to take care of the striker’s spot for the long-term.
In this regard, the 33-year-old will be looking to emulate the kind of effect his former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic had on the Theatre of Dreams. However, in the worst-case scenario, he could still end up being a relative dud like Radamael Falcao.
This brings about another facet connected to his age – experience and a proven figure to rely on. United sorely lack a leader in their dressing room right now and the drama that unfolded during the 1-6 loss to Tottenham Hotspur illustrates just how unhinged the team could get.
Over the course of the last season, Solskjær repeatedly fielded historically young lineups. While this was heralded for the vigour it promised, the mistakes and lack of direction was evident too. In several games it has been made clear that despite the club’s youth holding great ability, as evidenced by their youthful front-three outscoring Liverpool’s trident last season, a consistent drive does not exist.
This is due to the fact that the young lineup struggles to get back from mistakes and retain control. Despite gaining early advantages, mistakes wherein those chances are thrown away derails the club’s advantages. This was the case in the Europa League semi-final against Sevilla and more recently against Spurs too. In both cases, the Mancunian giants scored the early goal but were unable to respond effectively to conceding again.
As such, the introduction of a Cavani figure with his experience will balance that drive. Returning to the Ibrahimovic parallel, wherein the Swede’s time at United brought silverware and energized the youth, a feat he is now replicating at AC Milan with their young first-team, the Uruguayan striker could easily do the same.
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In this scenario, Cavani would also bring much-needed maturity to the roster and will also be construed as a valuable leader figure. This way, youthful forwards like Mason Greenwood, Daniel James, Facundo Pellistri, and eventually Amad Traore will all get to learn the tricks of the game from one of the best players in the spot.
Tactically, his clinical eye for goal and knack of finishing will be a good one-up. Cavani is a starkly different player from Martial and Ighalo, with the former a more wing-dynamic forward and the latter too reliant on being fed. El Matador has the potential to create a goal-scoring scenario and execute it without being too dependent.
All in all, while he is not the player Man Utd absolutely needed at the moment, Cavani may end up becoming the catalysing influence for a more profound change in the roster.