Work rate, rollockings and a food obsession: What Edinson Cavani has brought to Manchester...

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May 8, 2002
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It was not Edinson Cavani’s error for Liverpool’s second goal on Sunday that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer focused on during his post-match analysis, but the Uruguayan’s reaction to it. “He makes a mistake but he was the one who was closest to winning it back inside our own 18-yard box,” the Manchester United manager said. You could certainly imagine Solskjaer sitting down Anthony Martial or Mason Greenwood and telling them to take note of the urgency with which Cavani raced back in a bid to retrieve the ball from James Milner after the Liverpool midfielder had intercepted an intended cross-field pass. Cavani turns 34 next month and, while he has brought experience and a focal point to United’s forward line - an understanding of how and when to attack the six-yard box and a wiliness around the penalty area, as evidenced by the way he drew a foul from Fabinho that earned the free-kick from which Bruno Fernandes won the Liverpool game - it is his work ethic that has resonated as much as anything. “What does he bring? How long have we got?” Solskjaer said ahead of the visit of Sheffield United to Old Trafford on Wednesday night. “When a striker of that age runs almost 12 kilometres [in a game] ... he chases down every time the centre back has got the ball, every time the goalkeeper has the ball, he tackles back on the centre midfielders. His work rate, his habits and his threat in the box - the humility of coming in every single day doing your best - we could go on and on. His experience and attitude has given us a lesson - every single one of us.” They talked in similarly glowing terms at United a few years ago about another “veteran” striker who arrived as a free agent having just left Paris Saint-Germain and, as was the case with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cavani’s impact in less than four months in Manchester has again had fans wishing the club had first signed him a decade earlier. On and off the field, Ibrahimovic’s influence was widely felt. Cavani does not speak English like Ibrahimovic or have his playful wit - they are different players and characters - but he is just as demanding of team-mates and equally meticulous in his approach. Luke Shaw got a taste of that against Liverpool when the left back was rebuked for not firing a pass into Cavani’s feet after the striker had spun around in anticipation of the ball.

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