Manchester United signed Edinson Cavani during the climax of the summer transfer window as an answer to their lack of backup strikers. Odion Ighalo was signed up for the same reason but failed to make any real impact when he was given chances. Adding that to an unsustainable habit of switching Marcus Rashford between the flanks and the striker position, it was inevitable that a signing had to be made to fill the gap.
The answer was the Uruguayan, who had just run down his contract at Paris Saint-Germain. Cavani was then brought in on a 1-year deal for free (with an option to extend for another year). The striker inherited the infamous No. 7 shirt and is now on a path of recovery to feature in the Premier League. But how exactly does the Uruguayan international fit in at United, and what does he bring to the side? Let’s have a look.
Edinson Cavani has always been known as a lethal and clinical finisher. The forward has performed at the highest level for a consistent period, not just for his clubs, but also on the international stage. The former Napoli man has scored a total of 200 goals in 301 appearances for PSG, whilst also registering 43 assists. These numbers are not casual by any means.
His strength lets him hold onto the ball and make intelligent passes into the final third. Moreover, being an aerial threat, the veteran has a big advantage over the current United strikers. Unquestionably, he can be a great asset to any side he plays for, but the question lies in where he finds himself playing at Old Trafford. Rashford and Anthony Martial are almost guaranteed starters for two out of the three front three spots. Chances for the ex-Palermo man will be hard to come by in the current circumstances.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already tried out numerous systems during his time so far at Old Trafford. In one of those systems, he boasts an 11% loss rate, a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond formation. The Norwegian implemented this system with Rashford and Martial up top and has managed to fetch results by playing a deep block.
Should injuries or suspensions void the English giants of their best forwards, pairing one of them up top with Edinson Cavani would not be a far-fetched idea. The Uruguay national team was the only side that played two strikers up top consistently during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The United striker’s partnership with Luis Suarez made their side devastating attacking wise, as the diamond midfield behind them supported during pressing and long-range goals.
This system also ensures the inclusion of Donny van de Beek in a box-to-box role, accompanied by Paul Pogba next to him and Bruno Fernandes ahead with Nemanja Matic at the base of the midfield. Cavani can draw in defenders and markers from midfield by virtue of which he can create space for his striking partner and midfielders to overload the opposition half to create a chance and force errors.
Although this does sound like a very exciting setup, this requires Nemanja Matic to take up a lot of responsibility in midfield — having to cover for all of the midfielders who will be joining the attack. Plus the system requires the team to play more liberally which is arguably Solskjaer’s biggest weakness as someone who likes to sit deep and wait for a counter-attacking opportunity.
The 33-year-old’s profile does not seem like the one the Mancunians needed right now, given the fact that youngsters will be prioritised in the pecking order. But that implies he won’t make an impact. In cup games and fringe games of the Premier League, the Red Devils are free to experiment with systems and deploy a side that is more liberal to play a diamond formation. If not, Cavani will just have to pray for an injury that will allow him to showcase his worth.