Manchester United fans adapted ABBA’s ’70s hit, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ to serenade their new goal-scoring forward last season.
“Give it, give it, give it to Edi Cavani, pass him the ball and watch him score all the goals,” was often heard at Old Trafford.
The signing of Cavani on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain was dubious. There were doubts about whether the 35-year-old could remain dangerous in the Premier League in the autumn of his career but those fears were soon squashed by the player.
The Uruguayan’s brace against Southampton and his audacious lofted chip against Fulham were the highlights from a brilliant first season at United in which he scored 17 goals in all. Cavani was the natural centre-forward that United desperately needed. His movement from him was world-class and his finishing sublime. It was enough to ignore his poor injury record that he was quietly building.
Cavani agreed to sign a contract extension in the summer and that was good news for everybody connected with United. Cavani would continue to provide United with a unique attacking option at centre-forward, he’d continue to be approachable on the training ground and United’s youngsters would continue to benefit from shadowing him every day. The extension ticked all boxes.
While it made perfect sense, Cavani’s second season at United is becoming quite the disappointment. It would be unfair to judge Cavani by unrealistic expectations-his role at the club is specific and suitable for a player of his age-but his apparent inability for him to be regularly available for selection has become frustrating. It’s gradually chipping away at the good credit he built last season.
Cavani started against Burnley in midweek and played 70 minutes. He was with the United squad at The Lowry Hotel on Friday night but was withdrawn from the squad to face Southampton on Saturday due to a groin injury, as Ralf Rangnick claimed.
“Edi [Cavani] unfortunately had to pull out after training last night, he had some groin problems,” Rangnick said. “We had treatment on him the whole night and the whole morning, but in the end he just said he’s not available.”
Rangnick’s use of language was interesting. It’s possible to suggest his comments about him meant Cavani made the call on his fitness about him, not United’s medical team. That wouldn’t be unprecedented. Some have argued Cavani has picked and chosen his games from him at United.
It’s natural for a player of his age to struggle with injuries, but it seems Cavani can’t play two games per week.
United have played 33 games across all competitions this term and Cavani has missed 16 of those matches through fitness concerns.
That means Cavani has been unavailable for just under 50% of United’s fixtures this season. Cavani is set to leave the club on a free transfer at the end of the campaign and his United career is in danger of ending in underwhelming fashion.
Regardless of what Cavani can do from now until the expiration of his contract, this season has been a disaster, but he still has the opportunity to perform on an individual basis, which would ensure his time at United would be fondly remembered.
But on his current trajectory, United fans will likely look back on Cavani’s time at the club with mixed feelings.
Cavani has the talent and the work ethic to be remembered well at Old Trafford but it’s down to him to guarantee that.