Edinson Cavani is already looking like a tremendous signing for Manchester United.
The Uruguayan has seemingly broken the curse of United’s number seven shirt, and has already scored six goals for the club, the latest of which came this week in a 9-0 thrashing of Southampton.
Cavani played 45 minutes before being taken off, and there was a moment from his first half display which went viral, in which he was seen giving advice and on-pitch coaching to Marcus Rashford after United’s first goal which was scored by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Cavani was seen on camera advising Rashford about his movement off the ball. Minutes later the United forward scored the team’s second goal.
The veteran striker added a goal himself, and while he is clearly a valuable player in his own right, it is the influence he can have on the team’s young forwards which could have the longest lasting impact at the club.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reporters last week that United’s players were enjoying learning from him. He was quoted by Goal: “It doesn’t matter if it’s Marcus [Rashford] or Dan [James] or Anthony [Martial] or Mason, they have all got things to learn from Edinson and the more humble and hungry you are to listen the better you will become.
“Edinson has been in every single position to score a goal or to win the ball back throughout his career and there is so much for them to learn off him.”
What seems to really make the difference with Cavani, is that he looks so willing to pass on advice and help the young players. United need to take advantage of this.
Get United’s young prodigies involved
United are fortunate to have a number of exciting young forwards in the academy ready to follow in Mason Greenwood’s footsteps.
Joe Hugill has 14 goals in all competitions this season for the academy and Charlie McNeill has eight. Both players are just 17-years-old. Both are real talents and are catching the eye this season.
Hugill struck four goals at the weekend against Liverpool, while McNeill copied Cavani’s archer celebration after scoring a fortnight ago. He’s clearly watching the Uruguayan and is happy to have him at the club.
United could do so much for these two by getting them involved in first team training sessions, just for an hour or so, to watch and learn from Cavani.
There is a practical element making this a bit more difficult at the moment. The Covid situation means there is a first team bubble and an under-23 bubble which United prefer not to mix, and yet there have been occasions where players have flitted between the squads, like Teden Mengi, Facundo Pellistri, and Amad Diallo. Will Fish, Ethan Laird and Shola Shoretire each trained with the first team at the end of December.
So United can at some stage take a look at getting Hugill and McNeill some time around Cavani. Even a one-off striker-specific training session alongside him could have a huge impact.
Hugill caught Solskjaer’s attention with his under-23 goals at the weekend and was referenced in the manager’s press conference on Monday.
Along with Hugill he is an exciting talent, and United have Alejandro Garnacho and Dillon Hoogewerf in the mix at under-18s level too.
Cavani won’t be at United forever. He’s 33 and while it’s possible his contract could get extended, Solskjaer needs to get the most out of him while he can.
He’s beginning to really click on the pitch and get in sync with his teammates. If there’s a little extra he can add by helping the development of United’s youngsters, then Solskjaer needs to do what he can to make it happen.
Post-Cristiano Ronaldo #7s at Manchester United
- Michael Owen (2009-2012)
A promising start for Owen quickly faded. The former Liverpool striker struggled with injuries and scored just five Premier League goals.
- Antonio Valencia (2012-2013)
Valencia was a steady performer for United, and the hope was that giving him the number 7 shirt could lift his game to another level. Instead he went backwards and asked to go back to number 25.
- Angel di Maria (2014-2015)
United had high hopes for Di Maria after paying £63 million for him. His form tanked after a promising start and he just gave up, forcing a move to PSG.
- Memphis Depay (2015-2017)
The number seven shirt was too much too soon for Memphis Depay, who was all hype and little substance. The Dutchman scored only two Premier League goals and was sold to Lyon.
- Alexis Sanchez (2018-2020)
United sought to solve the number seven dilemma by giving the shirt to a proven Premier League performer. Unfortunately Sanchez’s performance level collapsed. He scored just three league goals.
- Edinson Cavani (2020 – present)
United may finally have found a worthy successor to Ronaldo. He already has more league goals than both Sanchez and Depay managed.
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