Edinson Cavani has played less than 800 minutes across all competitions for Manchester United this season.
That would have been almost inconceivable towards the back end of last season. Cavani enjoyed an outstanding debut campaign at United and he rounded it off when scoring a delightful goal against Fulham in the final home game of the season, which was fitting.
Around 10,000 United fans were permitted to return to Old Trafford for that afternoon in May and Cavani’s goal was arguably worth the wait after a season behind closed doors. Cavani had signed a one-year contract extension at United one week before that match and that news was warmly welcomed by all of those involved with the club.
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There had been doubts about the forward’s ability to still perform on the elite stage considering his age and fitness problems, but Cavani emphatically silenced the critics with every goal that found the back of the net.
The Uruguayan’s brace against Southampton and that audacious lofted chip against Fulham were the highlights from a stellar campaign in which he scored 17 goals in all. United always looked better with Cavani on the pitch.
But it hasn’t worked out that way this season his time at the club is now ending in a disappointing manner after such promise.
Cavani has had to manage a tendon issue for some time and he underwent treatment for the problem during the November international break. He has since struggled for fitness and he’s missed around 50 per cent of United’s games.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival and Cavani’s injury record has meant the Uruguay star has had limited minutes this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferred to play just one centre-forward in the 4-2-3-1 system that defined his tenure of him and Cavani have watched on as Ronaldo took that role earlier in the season. United then briefly played two up front under Ralf Rangnick but they now play 4-3-3.
Cavani has watched on throughout from the sidelines. His last season at the club wasn’t supposed to end like this. If Cavani had been fit more often, Rangnick might have continued with his first United formation of 4-2-2-2, but that hasn’t been seen for months.
Cavani’s contract expires at the end of the season and he’s heading towards the exit door. United don’t have anyone at the club that possesses his skill set at centre-forward, but another one-year extension would be absurd and unadvisable.
The fitness of the 35-year-old has unfortunately tainted his final year and South America might be an appropriate next destination.
There are still games remaining for Cavani to have an impact, to ensure his time at the club is well remembered.
However, it’s currently set to be ‘what could have been’ with Cavani at United.
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