Edinson Cavani made a dream start to life at Old Trafford but it has come to a bitter end as the striker is set to leave Manchester United in the summer as a free agent
Edinson Cavani’s fall from grace is difficult to process as he is set to leave Manchester United as a free agent this summer.
The striker’s contract extension last summer was considered one of the best moves of the window after the blistering end to his debut season at Old Trafford with 10 goals in his last eleven games, including scoring three times against Roma in United’s Europa League semi-final tie and netting in the final in a losing effort against Villarreal.
The Uruguayan showed no signs of slowing down at the age of 34 as he helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side secure a runner-up finish in the Premier League. Cavani was primed to have another big year at the club but things have not quite gone according to plan – something that has been a common theme throughout United’s season.
There are not many players whose form has dipped so drastically from one year to the next, however. Here’s how it has unravelled.
Cavani’s anger at shirt request
Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival certainly disrupted proceedings as Solskjaer had to quickly alter his plans to accommodate the Portugal international.
Cavani was the fall guy as Ronaldo immediately took his place in the starting XI with no sign of him regaining it given the forward’s electric start to his second spell at Old Trafford.
Cavani also lost his number seven shirt to the 37-year-old, which the forward was not best pleased with. He was reportedly p *** ed off ‘by having to give up the jersey to Ronaldo given he had enjoyed a promising first season.
United were well aware that Cavani would not receive the news well after asking him to give up the shirt for Jadon Sancho earlier that summer when he arrived from Borussia Dortmund.
According to The Athletic, Cavani was said to have been ‘put out’ at being asked to give up the number seven jersey for the new recruit, which resulted in the winger taking the number 25.
United weren’t willing to stand in Ronaldo’s way, however, and as predicted it rubbed Cavani up the wrong way.
Cavani’s phone call to Riquelme
Cavani was given chances, albeit sporadically, but the momentum he gained from the end of last season had vanished and he did not score in his first nine appearances for the Red Devils.
There were signs Cavani and Ronaldo could form a partnership, however, when Solskjaer decided to go two up front away at Tottenham in a 3-0 win, which led to the sacking of Nuno Espirito Santo.
It was not the most exciting football to watch, but it was effective as the strikers linked up seamlessly with both getting on the scoresheet.
That could have been something to build upon but that’s when injury issues came into the equation for Cavani. He missed 10 games over the course of two months as Solskjaer was axed and Ralf Rangnick took over on an interim basis.
Cavani netted on his return against Newcastle but failed to get on the scoresheet since with limited game-time, before picking up another injury that had him on the sidelines practically until the end of the season.
Unhappy with his playing time, Cavani has been putting feelers out about leaving United as far back as January when he called Juan Roman Riquelme to inquire about joining Boca Juniors.
“In January, Cavani called me saying he wanted to come because he was playing little there,” Riquelme told TNT Sports.
“I’ve been talking with him for a long time and he called me in January to come because he wasn’t playing there. I remember we talked one day and the next day he came in and scored two goals in the last minutes.
“He made a comeback. From then on he started scoring goals in all the games and they renewed with him.”
Scholes calls Cavani a “disgrace”
There were certainly questions marks surrounding Cavani’s health towards the end of the season. He trained for three days before the Manchester derby in March but still did not make the squad that were dismantled at the Etihad as Manchester City ran out 4-1 winners.
Rangnick revealed that Cavani ruled himself out of the game as he expressed his frustration about the situation.
The interim boss refused to say if the 35-year-old picks and chooses when he is available but certainly suggested that was the case by saying he could not force him to play.
Rangnick said: “Edi trained in the last three days, he trained well, but he still felt after those three training sessions that he is still not fit to play. This is a fact and as a manager, I cannot force a player to play if he does not feel fit or well enough to play.
“I can not force a player to play if he thinks he’s not available because he has an injury.”
Paul Scholes took issue with this, calling Cavani a “disgrace.” He told Premier League productions: “Cavani I think was a disgrace this year, he hardly ever played. He pulled out of the Middlesbrough game because he had to travel back from wherever he was. Funnily enough, since that Middlesbrough game, I think I heard last night United have won only five out of 18 games or something since then.
“It’s been embarrassing, this manage [Erik ten Hag] now needs backing. Who’s going to help him do that? The club upstairs is still a bit of a mess, we do not really know. “
Cavani returned for the final three games of the season against Brentford, Brighton and Crystal Palace, which appeared to be his final match for the club. And he got himself caught up in more controversy as he gave the middle finger to a supporter on Sunday boarding the team bus after playing 90 minutes in a 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park.
Cavani made a dream start to life in Manchester, but it has come to a bitter, bitter end.