Edinson Cavani — A Hero or Traitor?

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After two seasons at Manchester United, the Uruguayan centre forward, Edinson Cavani, has bowed out of the English Premier League. However, it is important to understand the back story before his arrival.

United finished the 2019/2020 season with optimism for better things to come in the next. That season was Solskjaer’s first full season as a manager; Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Mason Greenwood banged incredible goals. As a whole, the team looked better and more harmonised than Jose Mourinho’s squad. Consequently, United finished third in the league, reaching three semi-finals.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Jesse Lingard,
Marcus Rashford MBE and Anthony Martial .

The transfer window saga

The following summer transfer window was a make or break for Manchester United. The team needed a comprehensive bolster to end their trophy drought. In other words, a traditional striker and defensive midfielder were the most important options according to most United fans. United needed a proper striker because Martial needed competition to remain on his toes. Apart from that, he is a natural winger who Solskjaer entrusted with the striker role for Manchester United; he did pretty well, though.

While rival clubs kept splashing the cash during the transfer window, nothing seemed to happen at United. It infuriated the fans. Rumours of Solskjaer wanting Erling Haaland, Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho kept circulating in the media; such is the tradition almost every year.

Deadlock broken

The silence at the 2020 summer transfer window took a u-turn on the second day of September with the official announcement of Donny van de Beek’s arrival to the team. This news had mixed reactions— while some fans and media personalities were delighted, others saw it as a “hasty” move to salvage the situation. However anyone saw it, van de Beek’s incredible spell at Ajax speaks for itself. So, he is indeed a prolific midfielder.

Manchester United sign Cavani

Other signings like Telles, Diallo and Pellestri took place close to the deadline. However, the most interesting one was that of Edinson Cavani, who moved to Manchester United as a free agent on a one-year contract with an option to extend it to another year.

Such deadline day magic most definitely spurred various conversations and arguments. As a 34-year-old striker then, some people branded him “finished.” They thought he chose United as a retirement scheme and only wanted to use the club without offering any value. On the other hand, some people believed that Cavani was not Solskjaer’s choice, which is pretty valid.

Many fans were prepared to see another “Falcao” in the making and probably another victim of the number 7 jersey “curse.” But seeing Cavani’s track record at Napoli, PSG, and Uruguay, amongst others, it is hard not to admit he is a proper striker. Although, not many players in their mid-30s contribute much to a team. So, the doubts people had were valid to an extent.

Edinson Cavani- The man; the myth

Here’s what Solskjaer had to say about Cavani’s arrival,
“Edinson is an experienced ultimate professional who always gives everything for his team. His goal scoring record for club and country is fantastic and we are delighted to sign a player of his calibre. He’ll bring energy, power, leadership and a great mentality to the squad but, most importantly, he’ll bring goals. He has had a brilliant career so far, winning trophies at almost every club he has played for, and he still has so much more to give at the highest level.”

Though Cavani might not have been his choice, he knew the value he could bring to the team of youngsters. United had many young players during that time; aside from Cavani’s leadership qualities, as he mentioned, he would serve as a mentor to up-and-coming strikers, making them culturally and professionally sound. So, did Edinson Cavani break the curse? Did he turn out to be another Falcao? Let’s take a deep dive into these questions.

All eyes on Edinson Cavani

The 2020/2021 PL season was arguably the most anticipated period for United supporters and haters alike as they wanted to see what Solskjaer had managed to cook up with Cavani leading the front line in the infamous 4-2-3-1 formation.

That season, United finished second in the Premier League; Cavani scored 10 goals in 26 appearances, which is pretty insane for someone “finished.” But, over time, he enchanted the fans with his work rate on and off the pitch, his pressing abilities, headers and composure in front of goal. To be fair, that is what any club needs in a striker.

The fans loved him so much that they dedicated a few chants to him. One is a love song that focuses on him being the “king of Uruguay”, while the other is the adoption of Abba’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”, which describes his lethal abilities within the range of goal.

The “king of Uruguay” jumping through hoops.
(CREDIT: MUFC Communications Department)

Cavani’s unarguable impact

However, United signed Edinson Cavani and other players to improve the team and end their trophy drought. So, how close did United go to clinching a trophy since 2017? Indeed, for the first time since 2017, Manchester United reached a major European cup final— Europa League.

The journey to the final was filled with suspense as United encountered various challenging teams, the toughest of them being Roma. In the first leg against Roma, Solskjaer’s United led the tie with six goals to two. And El Matador stood tall in that game with two vital goals and assists.

The Journey to Gdansk

The feeling after the match was pretty gay as many believed United to have direct access to Gdansk. In other words, the second leg was literally in United’s hands. Roma has a brilliant record of coming back from defeats, and as you would guess, they attempted it during the second leg. But thanks to Cavani’s goals and David de Gea’s sublime saves, United survived the scare as it ended 8-5 on aggregate.

Now, the final game with Villarreal began with them at the forefront. However, one “finished” man stood tall again to salvage some faith for United by pulling a vital goal back— Edinson Cavani. I would not like to discuss how the final ended because I still have PTSD from it. The point is, at each stage of the 2020/2021 season, El Matador gave his best to the team, working tirelessly to keep fit and meet the demands of his body and profession in general, as evidenced on his social media accounts.

Edinson Cavani’s record against Roma in the Europa League.
(CREDIT: MUFC Communications Department)

Trouble in paradise

Now to the main point of this article, the United fan base on social media, particularly Twitter, suddenly turned on Edinson Cavani at some point in his spell at the club.

On Instagram, Cavani responded to his friend’s congratulatory message in their native language— “Gracias negrito.” What came after that was unpleasant as the English FA spent so much energy and resources investigating the “racist claims” underlying the message.

The brutality of the Football Association

Cavani was found guilty and fined in just his first spell at the club. Recall that he had the choice to end his contract with the club after the season. At the end of yet another trophyless season, rumours flew about Cavani desiring to return to his hometown. And you can guess the fan’s reaction, of course. Many lashed at him, calling him a traitor and all sorts of names. From an objective point of view, that hostile and unreasonable act from the FA is enough to discourage a foreign player who left his family in another country from staying.

Another round of rumors

As if that was not enough, fresh rumours about Ronaldo’s return circulated in the media, meaning that Cavani would have to give up the number 7 jersey as “CR7” is beyond an alias but a brand also. When Ronaldo returned, he respectfully gave up the shirt. Before he did, the “fans”, as usual, began putting him under severe fire.

To any rational person, Ronaldo’s arrival meant many things, especially the fact that Cavani would be starting less in a formation that requires one forward. In other words, he was no longer the main striker, which according to some unverified sources, wasn’t the prior agreement. However, I saw this in a good light as having two professional and experienced strikers in a team is a blessing if the coach utilises them appropriately.

The next season

In the 2021/22 PL season, Edinson Cavani scored 2 goals in 15 appearances, majorly because of fitness issues and injuries. Many United “fans” turned on the 35-year-old as reports suggest that he purposely excused himself from playing for some reasons. So, it is safe to say that last season was his climax as a Manchester United player. Cavani’s a professional player. If he gives an excuse for not playing, it has to be a good reason and not purposeful ghosting like many thought.

Cavani’s spell under Ralf Ragnick was unexpected. It is in no way his fault, as he did his best to keep up with fitness and other requirements in his profession. Seeing the fans turn on him that way, forgetting what he did for United, was surreal and unbelievable. All famous players attract hate—- that’s the world of football. But Cavani’s was absolutely unfair and unnecessary given the circumstances he had to put up with.


Leaving United this way is enough horror to last a lifetime. But, as a peak professional, he paid his respects to the fans, not minding whatever they had to say about him. So, having read this article, it is important to note that Cavani did carry the team when he was fit and never slacked in any way. He remains a Manchester United hero who cemented his name in the sands of time regardless of his short spell. As fans, it would help not to forget what he did for the team quickly. Had we won the Europa League under Solskjaer, it would have been a different story; perhaps, the fans would have appreciated him more.

Author: Eghons Azeke

My name is Eghonghon. I am a fun loving, hardworking and self-motivated writer who supports the biggest club in the world!

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