Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes Edinson Cavani is giving Manchester United’s attack a dimension they have lacked since the departure of Romelu Lukaku in 2019. Cavani came on at half-time against Southampton with United 2-0 down and inspired them to a 3-2 victory with two goals and an assist. And afterwards Solskjær hailed the impact and professionalism of the 33-year-old Uruguayan signed on deadline day from Paris Saint-Germain.
“He’s got all the attributes of a top-class footballer and a human being,” said Solskjær. “He’s had a great career and scored goals wherever he’s been. He’s so meticulous with his preparation, with his recovery. And to have that focal point in the box: we haven’t really had that since Romelu left.”
Cavani’s winning goal, a glancing header in the second minute of injury time after a sharp run to the near post, was the perfect demonstration of this. “Edinson has been around the block, he’s scored so many goals, he’s been between those posts so many times,” said Solskjær. “He reminds me of Andy [Cole] with his movement inside the box: so clever, so sharp. He’s seen that cross before, he knows what moment to move. And his best friend in the box – as Sir Alex [Ferguson] always used to tell me – is space. Anthony [Martial], Marcus [Rashford], Mason [Greenwood] are different kinds of strikers. It gives us a great balance.”
A first-half knee injury to the goalkeeper David de Gea was the main short-term concern for United, although Solskjær was optimistic that he would be fit for the crucial Champions League game against PSG on Wednesday. Anthony Martial remains sidelined with illness, but Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay should be back in training this week.
Meanwhile the Southampton manager, Ralph Hasenhüttl, was proud of his players even in defeat. “Cavani is very hard to defend against,” he said. “He made the difference in the second half. We had not enough relief from playing out and keeping the ball. We couldn’t keep the pressure high on them. We tried everything and made a fantastic game.”