Tag Archives: Edinson Cavani

Should Manchester United stick with a back three against Atalanta?

After a 5-0 thumping by Liverpool at Old Trafford just over a week ago, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacted with a 3-0 win against Tottenham on Saturday.

It was a good reaction for a side that was clearly bereft of confidence, as Solskjaer named the oldest starting lineup of his tenure so far by partnering Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani up front together with a back five behind them.

But now as United look to continue to build some momentum when they travel to Italy to take on Atalanta tonight, Solskjaer has some decisions to make regarding his starting lineup.

The returning Raphael Varane slotted straight into the middle of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire in central defence, while Solskjaer continued to select Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw but in slightly more advanced wing-back roles.

Scott McTominay and Fred started in midfield with Bruno Fernandes alongside them, with the Scot playing slightly deeper than his teammates.

It was a team that didn’t get any highlight reels in motion, but they turned in a sturdy performance that earned them a vital three points in a must-win situation.

They face a similar situation in the Champions League tonight, where a win puts them five points clear of Atalanta with just two group games remaining meaning they should qualify for the next round.

But with confidence still not at it’s best and Atalanta proving at Old Trafford two weeks ago that they’re good enough to take the game to the Reds, Solskjaer must be careful.

There is the chance he could keep the team unchanged with his three-at-the-back formation, considering how well it worked at the weekend. Victor Lindelof hasn’t travelled due to a slight knock, so Shaw could slot into his left centre-back role with Alex Telles moving into the wing-back role in the only change.

However, with the success that Marcus Rashford had against the Serie A side in the first game between the sides and the fact he has scored in three of his four appearances since returning from injury, he probably deserves a start.

Paul Pogba is also available again after serving a suspension against Spurs, which could allow United to go with a slightly more attacking team but keeping their defensive shape in tact by putting him into a central midfield role ahead of one of the ‘McFred’ duo.

There is also the potential of Solskjaer slightly altering the shape, keeping his defensive mindset in place with the two holding midfielders while going with two attacking midfielders instead of two strikers.

That could allow for summer signing Jadon Sancho to be brought into the side alongside Fernandes and behind Ronaldo in a role familiar to him during his time with Dortmund.

The Bundesliga side used a 3-4-3 variation for large periods of his time with the club there and the 21-year-old was very productive in that role, using his combinations and dribbling well to create chances and score goals.

It would be a chance for Solskjaer to give him a run-out once again and for Sancho to finally make an impression on United fans who have been waiting for him to truly arrive at the club.

Solskjaer has got decisions to make, because the squad he has spent the best part of three years building isn’t best suited to this formation.

But in a period where he is desperate for results to save his job, it may be a necessity. With that said, he now needs to find the balance between results and performances, so a few alterations wouldn’t go amiss.

How Manchester United should line up in attack in 2021/22 with Jadon Sancho

*Photo credit goes to @UtdDistrict*

It’s been a long time coming, but Jadon Sancho is finally a Manchester United player.

The 21-year-old England international has been chased by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club for the best part of two years but a £73million deal was finally agreed last month and is now complete after Euro 2020 came to an end.

Now that he is part of the squad, Solskjaer must decide on how best to use him going forward in the long-term but also short-term as he comes to terms with the fall-out of Euro 2020 and Copa America as well as other fitness and form issues in his squad for the start of the season.

How should United start the season in attack? How should it look once everyone is fit and firing? Here’s how I see it…

LEFT WING STARTER – Marcus Rashford
Depth: Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial, Dan James

If anyone has made a position their own in the Manchester United attack it is the number 10, Mr. Rashford.

Pace, direct running, a killer final pass and a goal threat, Rashford has mastered the out-to-in run and is often United’s biggest threat in attacking situations. Injuries mean that he could miss the start of the season, but that wouldn’t be the biggest issue in the world.

Anthony Martial is fit again and capable of playing there, while Sancho is arguably just as good on the left as he is on the right while Solskjaer is still a fan of Dan James who can fill in if needs be too.

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford of England look on during the England training session on June 03, 2021 in Middlesbrough, England.

Depth: Mason Greenwood, Amad, Juan Mata

I think it’s fair to say that Sancho has been signed to walk straight into the team on the right wing and anything else would be seen as a surprise.

It’s been a problem position for several years for Manchester United and over the last two seasons Solskjaer has been using Mason Greenwood in that position for his ambi-pedal abilities and goalscoring threat, but he’s a striker first and foremost.

The signing of Amad added depth but he was eased into the first-team picture last season, but some added minutes could be thrown his way this season in certain games to rotate the squad and even just add competition and help develop him more.

Juan Mata’s new deal means another option too, but the young bucks should certainly be ahead of him in the pecking order.

NUMBER 10 STARTER – Bruno Fernandes
Depth: Donny Van de Beek, Juan Mata, Hannibal Mejbri

Bruno Fernandes is the second name on the team sheet for Solskjaer after Harry Maguire in defence and that will not change this season barring something crazy.

The real question about this position is who should play when he doesn’t and Solskjaer has got options, whether he opts to use them or not. Donny Van de Beek is capable of playing as a ten, although it’s a different type of way to play the role while Mata arguably made his name in the position when he was younger.

Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 6-2 with Bruno Fernandes during the UEFA Europa League Semi-final...

There is also the possibility of Hannibal earning some first-team minutes after being promoted to the senior team at the end of last season and if he can impress during pre-season then he could earn himself some minutes during the season too.

STRIKER STARTER – Mason Greenwood
Depth: Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

The new one-year contract for Edinson Cavani would suggest that he will be the first-choice striker going into the new season, but if there’s ever the time to try something new it is now with Greenwood as the man.

The youngster has proven that he has the ability to score goals at the highest level despite his age and his preferred position is through the middle. He holds the ball up well, can drift wide and has the pace to run in behind plus finishes with both feet.

Cavani showed last season that he can affect games coming off the bench if necessary and despite Martial’s popularity with fans and the squad, his form last season was bad enough that he now must earn his place back through performances.

Manchester United come from behind again to show character of champions

Manchester United took a step closer to securing a second placed finish in the Premier League with yet another come from behind win to beat Aston Villa 3-1 at Villa Park.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named a strong team for the game despite United being scheduled to play three times in five days this week, as well as a gruelling game against Roma just 72 hours before the game.

They fell behind too in the first half as a stunning strike from Bertrand Traore found the top corner after some slack defending from Victor Lindelof when Scott McTominay lost the ball on the edge of the box.

United bounced back in the second half though when Paul Pogba was fouled by Douglas Luiz in the penalty area and Bruno Fernandes tucked home the resulting penalty. Just a few minutes later they had the lead when Aaron Wan-Bissaka found Mason Greenwood on the edge of the box, who rolled Tyrone Mings and slammed the ball into the near corner with his left foot.

Villa piled on the pressure looking to get back into the game but Marcus Rashford’s fine cross found substitute Edinson Cavani who headed beyond the keeper to round the game off. Villa were reduced to ten men when Ollie Watkins dived looking for a penalty and picked up a second yellow card.

It was the TENTH time in the Premier League this season that Manchester United have come from behind to win, a new record, and showed the incredible spirit that Solskjaer has brought to this side.

Being able to win games when playing badly and coming from behind are often traits associated with championship winning teams and while United look likely to miss out on the title this time around, it’s been a relatively impressive season.

Despite crashing out of the Champions League much earlier than they should, they have maintained a decent push at the top of the Premier League throughout the season and as well as reaching the latter stages of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup are now in the final of the Europa League.

They have lost just four times in the Premier League this season, after losing three of their first six games, and have found a way of beating teams who set up against them in a low block too.

There has been a clear evolution under Solskjaer this season and United have improved immensely, but a few too many draws have seen them unable to keep up with a relentless Manchester City side.

If they can start to work towards playing with the same intensity and quality from the beginning of games instead of when they go 1-0 down they’d be much better placed to put together a real challenge for the title.

The squad is a good mix of youth players and experience and with a few additions such as a defensive midfielder, a centre back and a right-winger (plus a striker if Cavani leaves) then they will be ready to push forward even more.

Solskjaer has made United hard to beat and capable of beating anyone on their day and there’s not much more you can ask for at this point. Now on to the next level.

Arsenal dumped out of Europe as Manchester United get to the final

Arsenal were dumped out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by former manager Unai Emery’s Villarreal side to set up a final in Gdansk against Manchester United.

The Gunners came into the game knowing they had to win after losing the first leg 2-1 and Mikel Arteta set the team up with a five-at-the-back formation that was troubled before the game even started, with Granit Xhaka getting injured in the warm up.

Kieran Tierney came in but Arsenal struggled throughout, having just two shots on target in the 90 minutes as they were held to a 0-0 draw and dumped out of the tournament.

Villarreal remain unbeaten throughout the tournament so far and Emery has now made it to a record five Europa League finals, after winning three-in-a-row with Sevilla before losing in the final to Chelsea as Arsenal manager in 2019.

They will now face Manchester United in the final who’s first leg 6-2 win was enough to see them through as they lost 3-2 on the night in Rome and saw off a little scare.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to get to his first final as manager of the club and he named a strong team on the night despite the club being set to play four games in seven days prior to kick off. Edinson Cavani gave the Reds the lead to settle any nerves, but Roma scored two goals in very quick succession to give themselves hope.

Cavani scored once again to wrap up progression, although Roma scored once more to earn themselves a win when youngster Nicola Zalewski’s strike came off Alex Telles and went through David De Gea’s legs.

Despite that, United showed they were the better team throughout the two legs and can finally put the ridiculous semi-final curse under Solskjaer behind them.

Arsenal must now really consider their future, as they face having no European football whatsoever next season for the first time in 25 years. The club are currently sat in ninth place and unless they can make up a five point swing over Liverpool, who have played a game less, in four games then they will be without.

Arteta was a gamble at the time of his appointment and it is one that has failed. Despite winning the FA Cup in his first season, he has accumulated just 49 points in 34 games and this season has failed to make it to a final of any cup competition.

The Gunners look totally incapable of being a genuine threat against teams who have any sort of clue what they’re doing and are always open to an error or three at the back to allow teams to punish them.

Fans have now turned on him and with the atmosphere at the club already volatile with fans against the owners, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to ride this storm out once again and make it to next season.

Manchester United on the other hand will be favourites going into the final in Poland, with the better players and team than Villarreal but Emery’s experience in winning this competition will prove vital without a doubt.

United do have weaknesses in the way they play and Emery will undoubtedly look to expose those issues to help the Spanish side win the first European trophy in their history.

In a fun coincidence the final will be played on May 26th, the same date that Solskjaer famously scored the winning goal in the UEFA Champions League final back in 1999 as the Red Devils won the treble.

Mason Greenwood stakes claim for striker role with winner against Brighton

Mason Greenwood has staked his claim to become the long-term number nine for Manchester United after scoring a late winner against Brighton at Old Trafford.

The Seagulls took the lead in the first half when former academy star Danny Welbeck lost Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the penalty area and was able to head past Dean Henderson at the second attempt. United struggled to create anything of note for a while, although Greenwood did hit the post early on and it wasn’t until the hour mark where they’d get back into the game.

Bruno Fernandes latched on to a loose ball and fed Marcus Rashford, who slotted past the goalkeeper as United pulled it back before Fernandes crossed for Paul Pogba to volley back across goal and Greenwood latched on to a header to grab all three points.

It was exactly the type of goal that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been trying to coach Anthony Martial and Rashford to score over the last two years and exactly the type of goal that Edinson Cavani was brought in to score when he signed last summer.

It was a great sign of progress in his development, with the England international grabbing only his sixth goal in a campaign where he has mostly been shunted out to the right wing.

But with news that Anthony Martial is likely to miss the rest of the season after picking up a knee injury on international duty, it means the 19-year-old could get himself a run as the central striker between now and the end of the season.

The obvious option is Cavani to take the leading role, but the Uruguayan is an interesting case right now. He himself has only scored seven goals this season and has performed better coming off the bench than when he’s started games. His physical attributes aren’t as sharp as they were during his prime, obviously, but his movement is also not as great as it once was.

Add to that his all-round game is iffy at best, with his link up play absolutely appalling and his passing is often very wayward, United struggle to sustain attacks when he needs to play with his back to goal.

Greenwood has a better overall game than Cavani does right now and since bulking up physically, he is much more comfortable now than he was last season when it comes to duels against defenders. He is more mobile, able to go both ways and ultimately is just a much better option right now.

He came through the academy as a number nine who scored goals relentlessly, even as he went through the age groups and it’s clear that he is more comfortable in central areas than out wide where his space is marginalised.

He’s never going to be able to learn how to play as a striker in the first-team without playing there and there seems to be no better time than now. With Cavani unlikely to stay beyond this season now after claims that he wants to return to South America, there is no point shoehorning him into the side.

It’s the perfect opportunity to give Greenwood a run in the side in his best position, with United now 11 points clear of fifth place and with a favourable draw in the Europa League quarter-finals against Granada.

Put the future of the club in the spotlight now and if Greenwood can perform then it could change the club’s transfer plans for the better.

Manchester United should let Edinson Cavani go if he doesn’t want to be there

When Manchester United were able to secure the signing of Edinson Cavani last season, it was a deal that made a lot of sense.

He brought experience to a young squad, a know how in the penalty area, a history of goalscoring and was hungry to prove himself in a new league. He provided a depth to their shallow attacking options and also competition for a starting berth.

It was a short-term contract, one-year plus the option for an extra year, and at 33-years-old it made complete sense. What wasn’t envisioned was that he’d play plenty, arguably become first-choice and then want to leave on his own accord.

Rumours have been rife over the last few months that Cavani is interested in a move back to South America, with Boca Juniors front of the queue to take him away from Old Trafford.

Cavani had earned himself a role as the first-choice striker at the club following some decent performances but also in part down to the awful form of Anthony Martial.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has constantly praised the Uruguay international, insisting that he has been positive around the club with his attitude and application as well as helping to mentor some of the younger players. There was even talk as early as October about the extra-year option being activated by the club.

Now though, the talk is that Cavani wants out and United are doing their utmost to convince him to stay. That’s a bad idea.

For all the good Cavani has done this season, he’s hardly torn up any trees. He’s scored seven goals in 26 games for the club so far, with two assists to go with it – hardly spectacular. On top of that he’s missed chunks of the campaign with injuries and reports have come out that he simply refuses to play unless he feels completely 100%.

When the club were without any other striker options, he came through a training session unscathed but wouldn’t travel to Milan for the Europa League second leg as he wasn’t 100%. He seems to not be 100% committed to the cause and while that’s not necessarily an issue, the club shouldn’t be looking to convince someone to stay who isn’t absolutely essential to their plans or team.

The club are in need of a new striker going into the new season, whether Cavani stays or goes. Reports suggest they are interested in Erling Haaland and Harry Kane while the future of Martial is also up in the air. United are desperate for a new, reliable goalscorer and Cavani hasn’t exactly proved to be someone irreplaceable and with relatively big wages moving him on wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Regardless of whether or not Solskjaer can land one of his top targets this summer, keeping hold of Cavani isn’t the end of the world. He’s a good striker, but there are plenty out there currently who can offer competition in a similar way or probably even better considering they can fit the team’s style of play in a better way.

If Cavani really does want to leave, then it shouldn’t be among the priorities of the club to try and convince him to stay. We’ve seen how players that are unhappy and want to leave can affect the morale of a team and with his contract expiring, it would be a clean break too.

It would add an extra department that the club need to replace, but they’re targeting a new signing anyway so it shouldn’t add too much to their already heavy to-do list.

If he wants to go, let him. It’s no skin off Manchester United’s nose.

Martial FC in administration as Manchester United beaten by Sheffield United

The end is nigh for Martial FC as Anthony Martial turned in a disasterclass for the ages in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United on Wednesday night.

The Frenchman started in his preferred central striker role on the night but was absolutely horrendous throughout, as Kean Bryan and Oliver Burke scored either side of a Harry Maguire header to get the Blades only their second win of the season.

It means Manchester United remain in second place in the table, a point behind local rivals Manchester City but having played a game extra.

The performance from everyone was awful, with Harry Maguire probably the only one to come away with some positives on the night, but Martial in particular has struck a nerve with fans.

After pushing on to his best individual season last year, many expected him to kick on this season and really push on to become the number nine he has always claimed to be.

Instead, the 25-year-old has shown a lack of intensity, a lack of movement, a lack of hunger and in truth, a lack of quality.

He has scored just five goals in all competitions so far this season and despite being given chance after chance, he’s not shown anything to suggest that he’s going to kick on past what he did last season.

United are seriously lacking that clinical edge in front of goal right now, to help in these tight games. Edinson Cavani has done relatively well in his performances so far, but its clear as day that he is past his prime too.

With a heavy reliance on goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, when they’re not firing United become blunt in attack. The Reds are desperate for someone they can rely on to be a genuine threat for 90 minutes in every game they play – someone in the Harry Kane or Erling Haaland bracket.

While the defeat is a result that could happen at any time – no team can win every game – United will see it as an opportunity missed to keep the pressure on Man City as they head into a tough round of fixtures.

They face Arsenal, Southampton and Everton in their next three league games and they’ll need to ensure they don’t do what they’ve become known to do in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era and that’s fall into a run of bad results, instead of it being an anomaly.

Manchester United show progress with win over Liverpool

Just a week after holding the champions to a draw at Anfield, Manchester United went toe to toe with Liverpool and came out on top with a 3-2 win in the FA Cup.

The Red Devils came from behind after Mohamed Salah opened the scoring thanks to goals from Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford to take the lead. Salah equalised for Jurgen Klopp’s side before substitute Bruno Fernandes smashed a free-kick in late on to seal progression for United into the next round.

It was a change of tact and intention from Solskjaer and one that worked in their favour, as they showed they can attack the top teams and do damage.

United’s big game form this season has been questionable, having failed to beat any of the other members of the ‘big six’ and having scored just one goal in games against them before this game.

Solskjaer had often opted for a pairing of Scott McTominay and Fred in midfield previously, looking to play on the counter attack while ensuring they didn’t lose with extra defensive protection. However against Liverpool, McTominay was paired with Paul Pogba and Solskjaer played with three attacking players behind the striker. He was going for it.

It was a pretty good display overall too, with many players putting in top performances all over the pitch.

In the past with United’s setup, when Salah opened the scoring the Reds would have been in trouble. They wouldn’t have had much creativity and would have been occupying ten yards deeper than normal. But with this front-foot approach, United were always in the game.

It showed progress in the mentality of the club right now, they now believe they can win these games and compete with the top teams.

A cup tie is different to a league game and if the mentality is carried into games in the future it will be a bigger sign that the mentality has shifted. But the performance was encouraging enough that it should definitely be considered for the upcoming fixtures.

The counter attack was still a threat, as seen with Greenwood and Rashford’s goals, but they created enough openings from keeping possession in the middle third and shifting side to side, as well as overlapping full-backs.

Solskjaer has got his side attacking well, defending well and competing in games against the big sides as well as sitting at the top of the Premier League. The only thing missing now, is a trophy.

Manchester United Leave It Late To Progress To Carabao Cup Semi-Final

Manchester United left it late but came away with a hugely impressive 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park to set up a Carabao Cup semi-final clash with Manchester City.

United dominated early on but couldn’t find the net, before both teams cancelled each other out for most of the second half. It took until the 88th minute for the Red Devils to break the deadlock, when Anthony Martial fed the ball into Edinson Cavani who took one touch onto his left foot, before powering a strike into the bottom corner.

It was a truly fantastic goal and showed exactly why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer moved to bring him in during the summer transfer window.

Everton pressed for an equaliser into stoppage time, which allowed Manchester United to wrap up the victory when Marcus Rashford fed Martial on a counter attack for the Frenchman to slot the ball into the corner.

It means the Reds progress to a fourth consecutive semi-final under Solskjaer, although they’re yet to make it to a final yet.

Tactically on the night, the Norwegian got it spot on. Pogba started as the deepest midfielder with Van de Beek on the left and Mason Greenwood on the right, with Cavani up front supported by Bruno Fernandes.

Right from the off they got on the ball well, played the ball forwards quickly and with intent and created chances. They pressed high too, causing plenty of defensive errors but the only thing they missed was the clinical finishing to put Everton to the sword early on like they did against Leeds.

It was only the second time this season that they’ve been able to win a game that Bruno Fernandes played in without the Portuguese magnifico getting a goal or assist. They’ve begun showing that they can win games without relying too heavily on him and the return to form of Paul Pogba has been a big part of that.

Manchester United are finally starting to look like a well oiled machine, Solskjaer is getting big decisions right and the Reds go marching on, on, on.

Edinson Cavani Shows Manchester United What a Real Number Nine Looks Like

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.