Three ways for Manchester United to unleash Cavani and Ronaldo partnership
Manchester United are fortunate to have two of the world’s most lethal strikers in the same team.
Cristiano Ronaldo has 790 career goals and counting while Cavani boasts 423 to his name.
Cavani’s contract at United runs for just one more year, so United need to find a way to get them both on the pitch together as often as possible.
This requires careful management, with Ronaldo 36 and Cavani 34. But both players want to play and do not want to sit on the bench.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told his press conference a fortnight ago: “It is exciting to see them two together. That will be a good partnership. Those two are boys you like to have around the goal when clubs are not giving you space.”
But together they have not seen much game time together yet. Against Everton in the last match, Ronaldo was substituted on for Cavani, rather than coming on to play alongside him.
Fitting them both into the side requires some creativity, with United typically playing one striker.
Play both in a 4-3-3
Positives: Ronaldo and Cavani are a well matched partnership in that they offer differing styles. Ronaldo is more of a predator at this point in his career who does not press, and needs movement of those around him.
Gary Neville called earlier this week for United to surround Ronaldo with players who will work tirelessly in the way Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez did in 2008.
Cavani possesses the work rate and pressing ability to hound down defenders and create space for Ronaldo. The two can even interchange, allowing Ronaldo to drift to the left and play in a position some feel he is at his most dangerous.
Negatives: The biggest drawback of this is the opportunity cost, as it means Marcus Rashford would not be a starter – unless he was shifted to the right or Cavani was stationed on the right.
Ronaldo and Cavani in the front three narrows down the third spot to one of Rashford, Martial, Greenwood, and Sancho.
Play both in a 4-4-2
Positives: In the 1990s this would have been a foregone conclusion. Stick Ronaldo and Cavani up front in a 4-4-2 and job done.
This would be a cavalier attacking way for United to set up and against weaker teams this would play into the side’s strengths.
Having both Ronaldo and Cavani in and around the penalty box at all times would be very difficult for opposing defenders to contain.
Negatives: Fitting everybody else into the side becomes problematic, specifically Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes does not fit out wide, nor as one of a two in a midfield duo, especially with United lacking a specialised defensive midfielder.
Play both in a 3-5-2
Positives: United have the players to make this work. A five man midfield means Bruno Fernandes can slot in behind Ronaldo and Cavani, a dangerous proposition for defences.
Solskjaer has played a three-man defence before and United have the personnel to do so, with Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire, while Luke Shaw can also slot in.
Negatives: The big challenge in this system is to effectively assign the wing-back roles.
Do United play Shaw/Telles or Wan-Bissaka/Dalot? Logically, perhaps, but this means no space for the likes of Rashford, Greenwood and Sancho, who would be reduced to back-up strikers.
The alternative would be to play them at wing-back, which is not ideal at all either, and these three talented players should be in the team rather than on the bench.
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