Manchester United were given a reminder of what a true number nine looks like leading the line, as Edinson Cavani came off the bench to score twice in a 3-2 comeback win against Southampton.
The Reds started the game well but quickly found themselves 2-0 down thanks to Jan Bednarek’s header and a stunning James Ward-Prowse free-kick. This prompted Ole Gunnar Solskjær to send for the cavalry, as Cavani was introduced at half-time in place of Mason Greenwood.
The Uruguayan international was influential with his movement off the ball throughout the second half, getting an assist for Bruno Fernandes on the hour mark to pull it back to 2-1. It was then his turn to get in on the action as Fernandes’ strike was deflected into his path and he stooped to head home an equaliser.
Then in the 92nd minute, Fernandes fired a free-kick out to Rashford, who whipped in a picture perfect cross from Cavani to run across goal and glance into the near post for the winner.
That piece of movement between the posts is exactly what United have been missing in recent years and especially under Solskjaer, who has spoken constantly about wanting to get Anthony Martial and Rashford scoring ‘scrappy goals’.
The best comparison I have for the way Cavani plays is if you play ‘Pro Clubs’ on FIFA.
When he has his back to goal, his first thought is to lay it off to someone and make the move in behind the defence. If there is no space in behind, he gets on the shoulder of the defenders and moves between the width of the posts.
He’s never been the most clinical, which is crazy when you think of how many goals he has scored throughout his career, but there’s a reason for that. He’s always in the right place for those fortunate, scrappy goals to fall his way.
He’s not a bad finisher, obviously, but he’s not in the upper echelon of strikers who need one chance to get on the scoresheet. He often needs more than that.
With the way Manchester United tend to create chances, Cavani’s instincts and movement is arguably what’s needed the most. Martial is the better front man right now in terms of what he can bring to the side overall, but Cavani guarantees goals.
He’s arguably made himself the first choice striker for now with that performance and the onus is on Martial to win his place back.
United looked a different outfit with him on the pitch and Ole would be crazy to take him out of the side for Martial with both of their current form.