Four or five months ago, it seemed that another year at the Theatre of Dreams for Edinson Cavani was just that – a dream – for many Manchester United supporters. It was a dream that didn’t seem likely to come true with the Uruguayan having a difficult time in his first year in England.
On the pitch, Cavani was more than capable, even though his season was interrupted through multiple small injuries and a three match ban for an Instagram post deemed to be racist by the FA – it wasn’t, and that would’ve certainly added to the strikers’ building frustration.
He was homesick and an isolated year in England was certainly not helping that. His manager even acknowledged that while he wanted to keep him at Old Trafford, a return to South America was a real possibility.
“We’re still in the same boat with Edinson in that he’s not 100% decided on his future yet,” Ole Gunnar Solskjær said before the Reds hosted Leeds United in April.
“He’s not told me he wants to leave but I’m very aware he might be going back home to South America with the difficult year he has had and if that’s his decision I’ll understand that.”
However, it was just in the following month where the 34-year-old striker decided to pledge his future with the club, signing a one-year extension with the club. It was clear that the Norwegian manager had his part to play in the extension, painting a picture for the Uruguayan; about him scoring in front of a full Stretford End, something he didn’t have the pleasure of doing throughout 2020/21. While the United fans were also desperate for El Matador to remain, both were clear factors in his extension.
“From the very first moment that I arrived, I felt the confidence of the manager. As a player, this belief gives you the perfect opportunity to play your best football and I want to thank him for that. I have been touched with how much the supporters have wanted me to stay, and I will give everything to bring them happiness and joy with my performances on the field. I’ve not yet been able to play in front of the Old Trafford crowd and that is something that I cannot wait to do.” Cavani said to the club website after his contract extension.Embed from Getty Images
One new thing that we’ve learnt about the contract extension, is that it was agreed that Cavani could have an extended leave over the summer. Following his Copa America campaign, Cavani was granted a longer holiday so that he could return to has native land and spend time with his family.
This ultimately will mean that Solskjær’s best goalscorer will miss the beginning of this campaign. With Marcus Rashford‘s inevitable absence known, no one would blame Solskjær for telling his number seven to get back to Manchester as soon as possible after his quarter-final exit with Uruguay.
However, it might show why Solskjær is one of the best man-managers about. So many of his players have praised the way he conducts himself with the players, similar praise to what Sir Alex Ferguson received, with how he knew how to act with each and every one of his players.
The United manager is allowing short-term pain, for hopeful long-term gain. It was clear that Cavani had a difficult time in his first season, so with time with his family over the summer, he should be fresh and happy for when he returns to action and that could be the recipe for another great goalscoring campaign.
You have to look at the other side of the coin though, and this does mean that United will need to start that campaign with either Anthony Martial – who’s played just 45 minutes of pre-season after coming back from injury – or Mason Greenwood, a 19-year-old, through the middle.Embed from Getty Images
It’s a risk when you could have a proven goalscorer in Cavani, but you’d argue that an unhappy Cavani is not going to help anybody, so you can understand why the leave was granted.
With 17 goals in just 2,180 minutes of football, Cavani had the best goals per 90 ratio in the entire United squad last season. It is clear that he will help the club throughout this next campaign, and while him missing the start of the season is most certainly a risk, it is ultimately an example of astute man-management from Ole Gunnar Solskjær and is just another sample of how he has created a brilliant atmosphere at Old Trafford.
Next though, is trophies, and Cavani and Solskjær know enough about them to know that United need one this season. Let’s see what happens.