Manchester United have a long way to go before they can cement themselves as true title contenders. Their defensive inconsistencies stand out but they have a problem up front too. Manchester United have a striker competition for the first time in a long while. Thirty-three-year-old Edinson Cavani was acquired as a free agent on deadline day of the summer window, and while it has taken some time for him to stake a claim in the side, he seems to have gone above Anthony Martial on the pecking order. The two striking options for Man United are drastically different with regards to their approach to the game, but only one is the solution to their striking woes.
Edinson Cavani headed home a brilliant cross from Marcus Rashford against Everton in the 24th minute to take his tally to six goals on the season and 3 in the last 5 games. Cavani is a typical “old school” centre forward. He is a tall, strong striker who enjoys the physical part of the game. He’s great with his back to goal and can bring players into the game with flicks and short passes, he presses the opposition defenders effectively, and what he lacks in speed he makes up for with his movement. As is with most top strikers, Cavani has an uncanny ability to find space in the box and peel away from defenders. He is always goal-hungry and continuously makes short bursts between the sticks. He can finish in multiple ways; finesse, screamers or headers are all in his toolbox, and even when the chances aren’t coming, he always works very hard for the team.
All these are the reasons why Manchester United have moved away from the inconsistent Anthony Martial this season. Martial had his best goal-scoring season for United last year finishing with 17 league goals, 23 goals in all competitions and he played most of the season as a centre forward. Martial, however, does most of his work away from the central areas of the pitch. He is terrific with the ball in close spaces and has a combination of speed and skill to get past his man when in space. This causes him to drift out wide to get favourable matchups, and that leaves holes on the central areas. He had improved with his back to goal, but he is not an ariel threat and is not as savvy as Cavani in the box.
So, Cavani is the best option. With him, in the team, Manchester United can attack in multiples ways; through the ground or air. He is a big threat in the box, and he leads the press from the front. Manchester United, however, can not gloss over the fact that he is way past his prime. Edison Cavani will be turning 34 on February 14th, and by the time his two-year contract with United runs out, he will be 35 years old. He is clearly the better option of the two strikers in the club, but even with him getting the goals, he is not the solution. If Manchester United wants to take their play to the next level they need a Cavani, a striker who is aggressive at the top end of the pitch, can find spaces in the box, and is hungry to get goals no matter how they come. Right now Cavani should be the answer, but at age 34 he is not the solution.