Edinson Cavani Isn’t Jadon Sancho But He’s Still What Manchester United Need

Cavani could prove intelligent business from Man Utd | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

It didn’t happen.

No ‘here we go’, no flamboyant announcement involving Dave and no bragging to the noisy neighbours about how their academy product is actually a red. So yes, Jadon Sancho has stayed at Borussia Dortmund despite Manchester United’s best ‘efforts’.

It was a largely disappointing final few days of the transfer window for United fans. A late, low-ball bid was rejected by Dortmund, who remained true to their word and their 10 August deadline for the winger, which, truthfully, and now left the Red Devils with egg on their faces…again.

Deadline day wasn’t a complete disaster, however, despite Sancho not signing after at least an eternity of speculation. United did bring in four new faces, one of which was Edinson Cavani on a free transfer.

? El Matador has arrived.

Old Trafford is waiting for you, @ECavaniOfficial! ?#MUFC

— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 5, 2020

Reading that a move for Sancho failed over money and a transfer for free agent Cavani happened at the death doesn’t help the board at United – like, at all – and rightly so. If United were adamant that Cavani was the man, surely they’d have snapped him up months ago – having been available since June.

The deal for the Uruguayan was done in disappointing fashion, but that doesn’t mean Cavani himself has to be a disappointment. While they’ve missed out on their top target, they have brought in one of Europe’s best strikers of the 2010s on a free transfer.

And not only does he offer bags of experience to a young dressing room trying to win trophies, but he also brings goals. A lot of them.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United have become known for their ruthless and fast-paced counter attacking play that gets the best out of a versatile and creative front four, but there is an obvious lack of a plan B. Odion Ighalo enjoyed a bright start after signing on loan in January, but he was never going to be the man they could rely on when the going got tough. Cavani, however, is a different story altogether.

The 33-year-old boasts a seriously impressive CV. Since making his debut for Palermo in 2007, only Lionel Messi (432) and Cristiano Ronaldo (416) have scored more goals than Cavani (250) across Europe’s top five leagues. Along with his rampant goal scoring record – he bagged 200 goals in 301 total appearances for Paris Saint-Germain – is an impressive trophy cabinet. He won just about everything there was to win in France, and while a Champions League has alluded him, his championship winning pedigree.

Edinson Cavani. Goalscorer supreme. ?pic.twitter.com/Hg0ZjOyaiW

— 90min (@90min_Football) October 6, 2020

On the pitch, United can expect a vigilant and potent all-round striker. ‘El Matador’ boasts an imposing physique and uses his size to his advantage, and along with this is an ability to bring others around him into the game with sharp movement. Yes, he’s not the most prolific and is keen on missing easy chances from time to time, but he’s a lethal number nine nonetheless – which United have lacked ever since Romelu Lukaku left in 2019.

So, how exactly will he fit in at Old Trafford?

At a glance, there’s no place in particular for Cavani to waltz into the starting XI, which is strange for a player of his pedigree. But that’s exactly what United need; the 33-year-old gives the Red Devils a genuine attacking threat from the bench and allows them to change their point of attack in a game where their free flowing, fast-paced play isn’t cutting the mustard.

Relegating him to no more than a rotation option would be short sighted, however, as the Uruguayan would no doubt hold his own as a starter on occasion too. United could easily switch to a 4-3-3 with the midfield options at hand, and a trio of Marcus Rashford, Cavani and Anthony Martial is enough to scare any opposition defence.

Anthony Martial, Marcus RashfordWith patience, there could be a lot of goals in a front three of Rashford, Martial and Cavani | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Sure, it might not be the expensive option, nor might it be the signing that solves all of Manchester United’s problems. Truth is, the Red Devils needed several key signings this summer; Sancho alone wouldn’t have been enough. They’re still short of a centre back and a defensive midfielder, and a backup striker should also have been on the list.

Bringing in Cavani on a free is sensible business – even if it wasn’t carried out in the most sensible manner – and something that United will reap the rewards from in the short-term. The last time they snapped up a striker on a free transfer from PSG didn’t go all that badly, so there’s no reason why it can’t work again.

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