Edinson Cavani was a deadline day arrival at Manchester United and opinion was split on the move.
This had all the hallmarks of a terrible transfer akin to Radamel Falcao and Bastian Schweinsteiger, a player whose best days may be behind him, who had injury issues to deal with.
Except Cavani is his own man, and has proved all of the doubters wrong. He showed even at the age of 34 he remains a class act, and is the player United have been crying out for up front for years.
What was his situation heading into the season?
Cavani joined in October and then had to quarantine. This meant he did not make his first start until November.
Considering he did not play after lockdown for PSG due to his contract issues, Cavani arrived at United having not played at all since March.
Cavani’s last season at PSG was blighted by injury too, so the concerns about his fitness were understandable.
The strong way he finished the season underlined that when he arrived he was off the pace.
How did 2020/21 go?
The season will go down as an individual success for Cavani, and his performances helped make it a memorable campaign.
Even though he finished the season losing in the Europa League final, Cavani gave it his all and scored in the match in Gdansk.
Cavani’s contribution was particularly valuable because Anthony Martial took such a huge step backwards.
The Uruguayan ended the season with a flourish, scoring nine goals in his last 10 games.
Cavani was also convinced to stick around at United for one more year and sign a contract extension, giving us all something to look forward to.
Finally United had a number seven worthy of wearing the iconic shirt. Cavani made us wish he had been representing the club for the past six or seven seasons.
Fortunately Cavani gave us plenty to choose from. Seeing him pull off his archer celebration for the first time after scoring against Everton was pretty special.
It got better when he netted a fantastic brace away to Southampton in a memorable 3-2 comback win, evoking memories of Robin van Persie.
Cavani’s diving header against Tottenham seemed to fire him up too. After having one disallowed in the first half, his goal set the tone for a fantastic two months to end the season.
Of all his special moments, Cavani’s performances against Roma in the Europa League semi-finals were the best of the bunch.
He helped United destroy the Italians 6-2 at Old Trafford, scoring two goals and providing two assists, before netting twice more in the away leg.
Cavani’s best goal came late in the season in front of supporters at Old Trafford, when he scored a 45 yard lob against Fulham. This really should have won the goal of the season award, which was given to Bruno Fernandes before the match.
Unfortunately there were a couple of lowpoints. An Instagram post made after the Southampton game saw him banned, with the FA arguing it was offensive.
Cavani missed the Carabao Cup semi-final as a result, which United lost, looking toothless in attack.
Cavani then considered leaving United and returning to Boca, and amid a spell of injuries in February and March it seemed very possible, with him still hurting from the FA ban.
When he pulled out of the squad ahead of the Europa League away tie with Milan citing an injury it seemed he was heading for the exit and fans began to question his commitment.
Another lowpoint is the ongoing realisation that Cavani 34 and not 24, and that his time at Old Trafford is going to be brief.
The Europa League final loss was an obvious disappointment to all, and Cavani at least has one more year to try and ensure his United stint ends with some silverware.
What were the standout numbers?
Cavani’s tremendous end to the season saw him finish the campaign with 17 goals in all competitions.
10 of these came in the Premier League and that was pretty good considering he started only 13 of those matches.
This made Cavani United’s third highest goalscorer, behind Marcus Rashford (21) and Bruno Fernandes (28).
Cavani also contributed five assists, the joint fourth-highest in the United squad.
22 goal contributions from a free agent who is 34 was a pretty outstanding return.
Data from FBRef shows Cavani had the second best rate of Goals per 90 minutes in whole Premier League at 0.65, behind only Kelechi Iheanacho.
Next step in 2021/22?
Cavani’s initial objective will be to start the season the way he finished it.
That might not be simple, with international breaks and travelling to and from Uruguay likely to cause some disruption.
But it should not take Cavani as long to get going as he did this season, and he should be targeting a 20 plus goal season.
In an ideal world he would help United to win silverware and extend his contract by a further year. He currently shows no sign of slowing down, and let’s hope it stays that way.
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