Time is running out for Edinson Cavani to strengthen his reputation at Manchester United.
When Cavani arrived at Old Trafford on the deadline day of the 2020 transfer window this summer, some doubted whether the veteran striker would be able to adapt to the Premier League’s hardships after spending the last seven years in Paris Saint-Germain. Some criticism was even leveled at United for once again picking up a big-name player whose best year was far behind him.
Yet the Uruguayan soon set about proving that all these skeptics were wrong.
After scoring his first goal in his third appearance, he was out, showing that his dogged determination and penalty box instincts were perfectly suited to English football. The ‘old warhorse’ scored 17 goals and contributed six assists in his first season. He also impressed with his pressure from the front and showed an excellent work speed.
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Despite an impressive debut campaign, at one point it seemed to be his only season at United. In March, Cavani’s father claimed he was unhappy in Manchester and wanted to return to his home continent to be closer to his family, with Boca Juniors being hailed as the ideal destination.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was desperate to keep the experienced hitman and perhaps the Old Trafford atmosphere – albeit only 10,000 in attendance when he scored a wonderful goal against Fulham – convinced him he had to experience the Theater of Dreams at full capacity.
Cavani kept signing a one-year extension and looked to be leading the line for the new season.
But things have not gone as planned.
Cavani represented his country during this summer’s Copa America and was then given extended leave after the tournament. As a result, he missed the entire pre-season and then the opening match of the Premier League while still in quarantine after finally returning to England.
To his great frustration, he was left out of the squad for the trip to Southampton and then finally made his first appearance of the season as a substitute against Wolves.
Then his position as the club’s only out-and-out sticker evaporated as Cristiano Ronaldo made a remarkable return to United. As Ronaldo is almost guaranteed to start almost every match in advance, Cavani’s expected playing time has been drastically reduced.
But it is just as well that United brought back the five-time Ballon d’Or winner when Cavani again became unavailable. He suffered an injury that saw him ruled out for the entire September break in September and the next four United games, and took his count to undefeated games since coming in at 18.
Since finally coming back against Aston Villa, he has yet to score, but he showed his continued worth as he had great influence from the bench against Villarreal and played a crucial role in Ronaldo’s late winner.
Now, to cause more frustration, just like he seems to be getting back to a rhythm, he’s likely to miss another game. Cavani has joined the Uruguay squad during the current international break. His country meets Brazil the day before United’s match against Leicester, which would give him only 36 hours to return to Manchester in time for the kick-off. As a result, he, along with Fred, will almost certainly not play in the match.
Cavani still offers a lot to United. His work speed is almost unmatched in the attacking line and his great determination can create chances out of nowhere. He is a clinical attacker and offers something different in advance, either from the bench or from the start.
But unfortunately, it seems he can not be trusted. His fitness problems at 34 are no surprise, but they have seen him miss matches for half a season in just a little over a year.
Another international break is also on the horizon in November, with Uruguay facing rivals Argentina and having to play in La Paz’s mentally draining heights against Bolivia just four days before United face Watford in the Premier League.
It would not be surprising if Cavani also had to miss that match after such a demanding international break, which just once again weakens his right to a place in the starting -11.
If Solskjær can not trust Cavani to be available, then it is difficult to build game plans with him involved, and he may have to settle for a place on the bench.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
Of course, it is impossible to demand someone to stop playing for their country; it is an honor like no other, but there is a reason why players who retire from international duty in the past continue to have extended club careers.
Cavani’s admirable commitment to his nation may be wasting his last chance to really impress United fans, who have only seen him in the flesh a handful of times, and are turning themselves into a club.
With his age, lack of availability and his own desire to return to South America, a new contract seems unlikely and time is ticking on his stay at United. So he needs to return to full match sharpness as soon as possible to solidify his legacy.
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