Given their recent history of signing experienced central strikers, there were understandably some eyebrows raised when Manchester United announced the signing of Edinson Cavani on transfer deadline day back in October.
For Cavani, though, the early signs are that he can play a key role for this United side, even at the age of 33.
On a day when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side looked as if they would be punished for their own failures in front of goal by two set-piece strikes from Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium, it was Cavani who emerged off the bench to ensure United’s season continues to move in the right direction.
Brought on at half-time for Mason Greenwood, the former Paris Saint-Germain star put in a virtuoso performance as he played a part in all three goals of United’s comeback from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 on the south coast.
It was the tenth time in Premier League history that United have come from behind to beat the Saints, and few will have been greeted with such a roar, even if the stadiums in England remain empty.
Solskjaer andhis coaching staff could not hide their jubilation on the sideline as Cavani headed in the stoppage-time winner, with the veteran having shown the killer instinct that United have largely lacked throughout the domestic campaign thus far.
In his 45 minutes on the pitch, Cavani managed four shots. Starting strikers Greenwood and Marcus Rashford managed three between them in their combined 135 minutes on the field, with Cavani’s movement and positional awareness inside the penalty area ensuring United’s attack had a clear focal point after the break.
It is an option that has been lacking for United over the past season or so, with neither Rashford, Greenwood nor Anthony Martial – who missed this game through illness – what one would describe as an out-and-out number nine.
“He’s got all the attributes of a top-class footballer,” Solskjaer said post-match.”He gave us a focal point in the box not really had that since Romelu Lukakuleft.
“Anthony, Marcusand Mason are different kind of strikers, so it gives us a great balance and a mix.”
Much was made of what Cavani would be able to teach that trio on the training pitch following his arrival on a free transfer, but they may well end up being educated far more when they are on the field alongside him in competitive games.
Greenwood, Rashford and Bruno Fernandes all missed clear opportunities to score here before the latter finally found the net to bring United back into the game following Jan Bednarek and James Ward-Prowse’s first-half goals for the hosts.
Fernandes’ finish was precise, and came after Cavani drifted into space on the right-hand side before he curled in an inch-perfect cross to find the Portugal playmaker near the penalty spot.
From there Cavani took over, with both his headed finishes showing that his nose for goal has far from disappeared despite him closing in on the twilight years of his career.
United have now won eight straight away games and are slowly climbing the table after their disappointing start to the campaign, with Cavani’s goals surely having eased some of the pressure that remains on Solskjaer for now.
The last player before Cavani to come off the bench for United in a Premier League away game and provide at least one goal and an assist was Ruud van Nistelrooy against Charlton Athletic back in September 2002.
Source : goal.com