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'He's been unbelievable' - Priceless Cavani brings more to Man Utd than goals

2:00 AM MYT 11/05/2021
Edinson Cavani Manchester United
The Uruguayan's form in the run-in has been impeccable, and after committing his future to the Red Devils, he can offer as much off the field as on it

For all the talk of summer transfer budgets and the constraints imposed after another season impacted by Covid-19, there are some things money cannot buy.

The experience that Edinson Cavani has brought to Manchester United’s forward line is priceless, with his decision to stay with the club for another season one that has saved United millions this summer.

Speak to anyone at the club and they could talk about Cavani's impressive goalscoring record, including 10 goal involvements in his last seven games, but the first thing that gets mentioned is how he is teaching those around him. 

“In the last month or so he’s been unbelievable,”  Luke Shaw told Sky Sports after United’s 3-1 Premier League win away to Aston Villa. “Not just the goals but the experience he brings to the team and the younger players.

"He pushes them a lot and hopefully he can keep doing that towards the end of the season.”

United’s first-half performance at Villa Park left them screaming out for the Uruguay international. They were again lacking that focal point up top; something which has been true in many of the games when Cavani has not featured. 

Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood were switching between the central striker position, but too often they drifted out to the wings or dropped too deep. They are both top level forwards but neither, at this moment in time, have honed their craft as real No.9s.

At the other end of the spectrum is Cavani.

His finishing is as clinical as you could imagine for a 34-year-old who has played at the highest level for 17 years, but it is his movement which is on another plane.

His goal off the bench on Sunday was a perfect example, as he darted between Matty Cash and Ezri Konsa to get on the end of a very good cross from Rashford.

It was an elite finish, but his vision and movement really took the breath away.

“He’s the centre forward you want in the box. His movement is incredible and it’s something everyone can learn from,” manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said in the past.

Greenwood does not have much to learn when it comes to finishing. That might be a big statement to make on behalf of someone who is just 19, but his goal on Sunday further added to that argument.

He threw Tyrone Mings off with ease after a jinking turn, before finishing at the near post. It was his 16th Premier League goal and makes him the highest goalscoring teenager in the club’s history.

Although his finishing is not under any question, both he and Rashford can learn from what Cavani does in the box. 

It is what the former Paris Saint-Germain star does off the ball which really adds to United’s attacking play. He knows precisely how to time his runs, how to play on the shoulder of the defender and drop his marker and how to drag the opposition across the box to give his team-mates more space.

Add to that, his vision is second to none.

They are all attributes that he has learned over nearly two decades of playing top-level football. So while big-money figures are thrown about for the likes of Erling Haaland and Harry Kane - both of which would be a great fit in United’s system - Cavani has a level of experience that neither of them could bring.

While there is genuine belief that Greenwood has a long career ahead as a No.9, he needs to learn from Cavani while he can.

"He’s learning on the job which is not easy. It’s difficult and he’s had to bear a lot of responsibility and he’s popped up with so many important goals for us," Solskjaer said.

"The kid just turns the game around in one split second and the goal against Villa was excellent, so I’m delighted that he’s got back to his goalscoring best and he’s learning more and more all the other bits as well."

You can see why Solskjaer has done everything he can to persuade him to stay, despite his apparent wish to return to South America. 

Cavani's goal involvements are vital, but his influence on the training ground is just as important.

He is the master teaching the apprentices, and another year of that is priceless for Solskjaer’s long-term plan.